Myanmar is better known for its serious drug problems - including large-scale illicit drugs production and trafficking and high rates of heroin use - than for implementing progressive drug policies that prioritise the health of its population. However, this could change in the near future.
For more than ten years, TNI’s Drugs & Democracy programme has been studying the UN drug control conventions and the institutional architecture of the UN drug control regime. As we approach the 2016 UNGASS, this primer is a tool to better understand the role of these conventions, the scope and limits of their flexibility, the mandates they established for the CND, the INCB and the WHO, and the various options for treaty reform.
No fewer than six randomised controlled trials – in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Canada, and England – concluded that heroin assisted treatment is more effective than conventional treatments in a subgroup of heroin users.
In its report on the methamphetamine market, the Australian Crime Commission identified ice as the illicit drug posing the highest risk to Australia. Perhaps it’s time to establish a safe place for ice users along the lines of the heroin injecting centre: a place where users can be monitored, where adverse physical and mental reactions to the drug can be professionally dealt with.
In 2008, Harm Reduction International released the Global State of Harm Reduction, a report that mapped responses to drug-related HIV and hepatitis C epidemics around the world for the first time.(1) The data gathered for the report provided a critical baseline against which progress could be measured in terms of the international, regional and national recognition of harm reduction in policy and practice. Since then, the biennial report has become a key publication for researchers, policymakers, civil society organisations and advocates, mapping harm reduction policy adoption and programme implementation globally.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement about the failures of Canada's drug policy is mostly on point. It’s just the last bit he gets wrong: “I think what everyone believes and agrees with, and to be frank myself, is that the current approach is not working, but it is not clear what we should do.” He’s wrong, because we know what we should do: Supervised injection sites; prescription heroin; medical cannabis dispensaries; crack pipe distribution; drug testing kits; Naloxone for reversing opioid overdose.
The federal government is cracking down on drug courts that refuse to let opioid addicts access medical treatments such as Suboxone, said Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The United Nations drug control conventions of 1960 and 1971 and later additions have inadvertently resulted in perhaps the greatest restrictions of medical and life sciences research. These conventions now need to be revised to allow neuroscience to progress unimpeded and to assist in the innovation of treatments for brain disorders. In the meantime, local changes, such as the United Kingdom moving cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, should be implemented to allow medical research to develop appropriately.
Under pressure from the Lib Dems, the Home Office commissioned a report looking at the international evidence on the impact of legislation on drug use. Theresa May, the home secretary, made no secret of the fact that she had no enthusiasm for the project, and when it was published in October, with Baker taking the lead in publicising it, Conservative ministers signalled that they would ignore it. Baker revealed that the original draft had contained policy recommendations that, on May’s orders, had been removed prior to publication.
While in the Americas cannabis policy reform is taking off, Europe seems to be lagging behind. At the level of national governments denial of the changing policy landscape and inertia to act upon calls for change reigns. At the local level, however, disenchantment with the current cannabis regime gives rise to new idea.
Some European countries prescribe heroin for the most severe cases of addiction. Patients taking heroin are less likely to use illicit drugs and drop out of treatment than those who use methadone, a substitute. Vancouver’s eagerness to follow is not surprising. It has long had Canada’s most liberal drug policies, and it has a big problem. Addicts congregate in Downtown Eastside, two derelict blocks right next to tourist attractions and the financial district. In the late 1990s the city had the highest rate of HIV infection outside sub-Saharan Africa.
If you’ve ever had surgery, you owe a debt to heroin-assisted therapy, and not because you were probably doped up on morphine in post-op. Rather, it’s because of William Halsted. Appointed the first chief of surgery of Johns Hopkins in 1889, the man now known as “the father of surgery” proceeded to revolutionize the craft during his more than 30-year career. Mr. Halsted introduced the use of surgical gloves and complete sterility, performed the first radical mastectomy and developed new stomach and intestinal surgeries. And one more thing: During his entire time at Johns Hopkins, Mr. Halsted injected himself with morphine on a daily basis.
The face of heroin use in America has changed utterly. Forty or fifty years ago heroin addicts were overwhelmingly male, disproportionately black, and very young. Most came from poor inner-city neighbourhoods. These days, the average user looks different. More than half are women, and 90% are white. The drug has crept into the suburbs and the middle classes. And although users are still mainly young, the age of initiation has risen: most first-timers are in their mid-20s. The spread of heroin to a new market of relatively affluent, suburban whites has allowed the drug to make a comeback, after decades of decline.
In a North American first, heroin addicts in Vancouver will soon receive prescription heroin outside of a clinical trial. Doctors at the Providence Crosstown Clinic received shipment of the drug this week for 26 former trial participants and will begin administering the drugs next week. In all, 120 severely addicted people have received authorization from Health Canada to receive the drugs; the rest are expected to get them soon. This development comes after more than a year of battles between Vancouver doctors and federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose.