Rafael Lemaitre (Communications director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy)
02 December 2011
The complexity and scale of our drug problem requires a nationwide effort to support smart drug policies that reduce drug use and its consequences. The Obama Administration has been engaged in a government-wide effort to reform our nation's drug policies and restore balance to the way we deal with the drug problem. We have pursued a variety of alternatives that abandon an unproductive enforcement-only "War on Drugs" approach to drug control and acknowledge we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem and, further, that drug addiction is a disease of the brain, not some "moral failing."
Media reports of two deaths at the weekend in the same party venue have once again been accompanied by police suggestions that the drug responsible is ecstasy that may be from a "contaminated" batch. Speculation as to the cause of these tragic deaths is unhelpful, and recent experience with mephedrone has shown such preliminary comments are often quite wrong, we will know the truth only when toxicology results are reported.
Eric E. Sterling, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
01 November 2011
If Congress were functioning properly, it would take the time to consider the many potential improvements in drug policy that could save lives by preventing overdose, reducing the spread of HIV, and lessening violence, preventing crime, and saving money. With a commitment to governing, instead of grandstanding, Congress could make a careful analysis and weigh the alternatives.
Most of us can agree that current drug policy in North America is a disaster. The global war on drugs can’t be won. Locking up addicts in jail is both futile and inhumane. We’re squandering billions on policies that hurt people and don’t work. Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA, thinks our current policies are a disaster. But he also thinks the legalizers are just as misguided as the hard-liners with their fantasies of a drug-free world. His information-packed new book, Drugs and Drug Policy, is full of inconvenient facts that demolish both the hawks and the doves.
Two out-of-service ambulances have been put back into service as mobile injection rooms for drug addicts in Copenhagen (Denmark). The vehicles will be used to transport a team of volunteer doctors and nurses and a stock of clean needles in the Vesterbro district.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) translated the article La raíz de la violencia by Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez that was originally published in Spanish in the June 2011 edition of the Mexican magazine Nexos. Guerrero’s article, "At the Root of the Violence," deserves as wide an audience as possible. The author makes a compelling case for shifting to a strategy of "deterrence" to reduce the horrific violence that has been spreading in Mexico.
When you hear that your government is helping addicts shoot up or smoke crack, it's normal to wonder: how can this possibly be good? Until recently, Alberta Health Services did similar work, distributing free, clean crack pipes to Calgary addicts through the Safeworks Harm Reduction Program. But when local media publicized the existence of the pipe arrangement last month, things went sideways.
Louise Gallagher (Director, Public Relations, Volunteer Services, with the Calgary Drop In, Rehab Centre)
21 August 2011
In 2008, Safeworks, an outreach program of Alberta Health Services, began a harm reduction program aimed at mitigating the effects of sharing crack pipes with other addicts. Through the program, users had the opportunity to obtain a clean pipe. It helped cut down on transmittable diseases and it gave outreach workers an opportunity to build relationships and explore safer options with this at-risk population of crack users. It's disheartening that AHS decided last week to let this program go up in smoke because it became controversial.
A decision to stop a clean crack-pipe distribution program has disappointed those working to rehabilitate street addicts. Since 2008, Alberta Health Services had been giving out crack-pipe kits as part of the Safeworks program, an effort to reduce transmittable diseases. The kits contained a glass pipe, mouthpiece and cleaning tool and were handed out in an AHS van. More than 14,500 crack pipes were given out as of June 2011.
Vancouver health officials will distribute new crack pipes to non-injection drug users this fall as part of a pilot project aimed at engaging crack cocaine smokers and reducing the transmission of disease such as hepatitis C, HIV and even respiratory illnesses. The program, part of Vancouver's harm reduction strategy, is expected to start in October and run for six months to a year. The intent is to connect health care workers with crack cocaine smokers to evaluate how many of the drug users are in the city and what equipment they need to lower their risk of catching diseases. A kit with a clean, unused pipe, mouthpiece, filter and condoms will be handed out to the participants.
"Sending more people to prison will not reduce drug addiction or improve public health," said Anya Sarang, president of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, an advocacy group for people with HIV which works with injecting drug users (IDUs). "Russian prisons are terrible places full of HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases. Drugs are often even more accessible there than anywhere else." She added: "What we need instead of this harsh drug control rhetoric is greater emphasis on rehabilitation, substitution treatment, case management for drug users and protection from HIV."
The number of drug-overdose deaths on Vancouver’s notorious downtown Eastside fell sharply after the opening of a safe injection site, new research shows. The study, published online Monday in the medical journal The Lancet, shows that fatal overdoses dropped 35 per cent in the vicinity of Insite in the two years after it opened. By comparison, OD deaths dropped only 9 per cent in the rest of Vancouver in that same period.
Today the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released its annual report. I’ve been following the Board for many, many years now, have often criticized its narrow interpretation of the treaties, have questioned the validity of its usually negative comments about any policy changes in the direction of harm reduction or decriminalization, and have warned repeatedly about its tendency to overstep its clearly defined mandate.
The West Coast is a different world when it comes to progress on drug policy reform. Three of the four states most likely to see strong pushes for marijuana legalization in the next couple of years are on the West Coast (the other being Colorado). And medical marijuana is a fact of life from San Diego to Seattle. But it's not just pot politics that makes the West Coast different. The region has also been a pioneer in sentencing reform and harm reduction practices, even if countervailing forces remain strong and both policy areas remain contested terrain.