JUNKe Life


People on the street of Vancouver need your support…
June 25, 2007, 12:27 am
Filed under: JUNKe life

Well, the drugs have run out…

Well, not all the drugs.  But the injectable drugs have run out.

We had our last fix about an hour ago.  It’s always funny (not funny haha, but funny strange) doing the last hit.  I’m always a little bit nervous.  Nervous I don’t fuck it up – spill the spoon, plug the needle, miss the hit, or awful outcomes like that.

I’m glad to say the last hit went down like a charm.  Cooked up great, hit a vein easily, and the bump was just right, not too strong, but strong enough.

So now what?  Now it feels kind of funny too.  Again, not funny haha, but funny strange.   It’s been ages since there hasn’t been a hit waiting there for the morning.  Yep, that good old morning hit.  Exactly what I need to get the day started.

Yep, it feels funny.   There’s a kind of emptiness, as if something’s just not right.  It’s kind of a vague feeling, kind of like embarking into the unknown, and uncertainty about the future.  Even though tomorrow’s morning pills are already there on my nightstand, with a glass of water to wash them down, just an arm-stretch away when I open my eyes to greet the dawn.  And there’s enough of them that I won’t be sick.

And furthermore, we resupply with injectable in less that 24 hours.  By dinner tomorrow we’ll already have gotten a fix into us.  So what’s to be bothered about, right?  Yet I feel bothered and ill-at-ease.  I suppose you could say that’s the dis-ease of addiction?

Hell, even without those morning pills, I’d only have to sweat it out for less than a day.  So what’s the big deal?  Why sweat it?  I agree entirely, it ain’t no big deal.  But it ain’t my logical side that’s feeling funny, it’s my addict side, and that side don’t think straight.

Ok, enough of my minuscule problems.  There’s a real problem out in Vancouver.  Come December the safer injection site inSITE is going to have to close its doors unless the federal government extends its operating licence.  Science certainly backs the efficacy of the inSITE.  Many lives have been saved in the three years inSITE’s been operating.  And many drug users have gone to treatment because the medical staff at the facility provided them with referrals, something they just wouldn’t get while shooting up in a back alley or in isolation in a rinky-dinky boarding house room.

But there’s an ideological war been declared by organizations like the Drug Prevention Network of Canada and the Institute on Global Drug Policy, both being little more than front groups for Drug Free America.  And that side is waging a fierce propaganda campaign to try and deceive the public into thinking inSITE is a big, fat waste of taxpayer’s money.

I was glad to hear that the forces of compassion and harm reduction and evidence-based sensibilities won a similar ideological battles in Australia earlier this month, allowing a safer injection site in Sydney to remain open.

inSITE needs public support to win the struggle against those who want to shut it down.  In order to stay open they’re going to need more than the stacks of scientific evidence that already shows its been doing a good job.  That scientific evidence is known.  But it alone won’t win this ideological battle.  inSITE needs the voices of people telling the government that they support the facility.

How can you add your voice?  Just go to Institute for Community Safety and click on the Show Your Support link.   Then you can simply add your name to a pre-written email to the Prime Minister, or you can write an email that expresses your own passion and insight into the issue.



Everything except compromise…
June 21, 2007, 11:40 am
Filed under: Good Stuff

I’m a big Dylan fan…

Everything except compromise…

Looking forward to Oct/07 when his next album is released…




Size matters…
June 21, 2007, 10:58 am
Filed under: JUNKe life

Size matters?  Yep, it sure does when it comes to choosing the right sized syringe and needle for the job at hand.

For years the standard needle given out by needle exchange programs was the 1cc Insulin syringe, 28 gauge,  1/2 point.   Basically that is a good all-around needle.  But it actually is more large than needed for a lot of substances, particularly heroin or cocaine.  1cc or 100 units is required when one is cooking up a gunky morphine pill where you want to get as much water mixed in to make a substance which is diluted enough to actually push through a syringe.   In fact, 100 units is just barely enough.

But for coke or heroin, which dissolve easily and clearly in just a little bit of water, the optimum is to use as little water as possible.   Optimum because a lot of water isn’t required to dilute it, and because you want to have the liquid as strong as can be.  A bunch of extra water just makes it less strong per unit.  So, most people doing coke or heroin only use about 30 units of water, and therefore there are 70 units of the syringe which goes empty.  That just means the syringe is unnecessarily large, which is a complaint of many cokers, particular some women who complain that the syringe is too big for their hand and hard to manipulate.

As a result, a lot of needle exchanges started handing out the 1/2 cc insulin syringes with the 28 gauge, 1/2 inch needle.   Those a perfect for heroin or coke.

But what about the opiate users who are doing pharmaceuticals?   And there’s a hell of a lot of us.  Some of the pills we cook up need a lot of water to break down the pill component, and mix it up so that there is a shootable liquid.   When using the standard 100mg MS Contin (i.e 1/10 of a gram of morphine) a 100 cc syringe is fine – commonly referred to as a gray..    One adds about 130 cc of water into the spoon with the crushed pill, and it cooks back to about 100 cc of liquid to shoot.

MS Contin 100mg morphine pill

However, there’s a lot of us for whom a single 100mg pill is inadequate. It just isn’t a big enough dose to fulfill the amount of opiate we’re dependent upon.  So we need to cook up two or three pills at a time.   Or we might only be able to get the oranges (the 60mg size morphine pill).  We need to do two of them just to get 120mg.  Or four of them to equal two grays.   Now we’re getting a whole lot of crushed up pill in a spoon, and it takes a lot of water to dilute it down to a liquid which isn’t just pure thick gunk.

60 mg morphine pill

This is where a bigger syringe really fits the bill.  Basically the 3cc syringe.  With a 3cc one can use 400 units of water to cook up a bunch of pills and get back 250-300 units of good liquid for injection.

Up until a while ago, it was rare to find the 3cc syringe without a big, nasty needle on it.  Something in the 22 gauge range which causes quite the hole when it goes it.  Its weird, but the smaller the gauge, the larger the diameter of the needle.    So the 28 gauge is a pretty thin needle.  And recently, companies are putting out even thinner needle points – 29 gauge ultra-fines, or even 30 gauge.   The bonus with these fine points is they hardly hurt the vein at all since the hole they leave is so tiny.  However, if they are too thin they can plug up with the substance you’re trying to shoot.  This can happen with the adulterants in coke, speed or heroin on occasion, but it will happen a lot with pharmaceutical pills.  In fact, it is almost impossible to use a 30 gauge for MS Contin morphine pills since you can’t squeeze the thick liquid out through such a tiny opening.

The problem with the 3cc syringes was not too tiny of needle, but too large.  The gauge would be so big that you damage your veins just using it.  The best would be a 26 gauge, which is still a pretty big point when one is used to the 28 gauge.  Luckily that has changed.   Most 3cc come with disposable needle tips so if the needle it comes with is too thick you can just replace it with a smaller, thinning needle.  And it is becoming common to find packages of needles for the 3cc syringes that are 27 1/2 gauge, even 28 or 29.  So, it becomes no different than using a standard needle, except that you can get a whole lot more liquid inside it.

3cc syringe

Which is perfect for me.  I’ve started using the 3cc syringe with a 28 or 27 1/2 gauge needle tip a lot.  It enables me to get back the adequate amount of morphine when I cook up three pills at a time.  Previously, when cooking three pills and having to fit them into a 1cc syringe, it would be too thick.  I’d have to over-dilute and therefore not draw back the full amount of morphine from the spoon.  With the 3cc this isn’t a problem.  I can add enough water to really dilute 3 pills adequately, and I can draw that entire liquid (in other words, all the morphine) into the syringe to shoot.

Using a 3cc syringe

For pharmaceutical like dilaudid a 1cc syringe is just fine, so too for the Statex morphine pills which crush to powder.  But for the standard MS Contin which is the most common morphine pills on the street, a 1cc syringe just doesn’t fit the bill.  Hell, I’ve seen lots of people, including myself, having to split my dose into four or five syringes, shoot them one right after another, to get my full dose of morphine into me.  That’s because it takes that much liquid to dilute down four or five pills into a liquid one can squeeze through a needle point.

So, if your local needle exchange isn’t yet providing 3cc (and even 5cc) syringes, with a bunch of the disposable 27 or 28 gauge needle points, ask them to do so.   If need be, explain why because they may have no idea about the problems trying to fit one’s fix into a 1cc syringe.



Morphine and chocolate, morphine and cigarettes…
June 16, 2007, 12:22 pm
Filed under: JUNKe life

Ain’t it the truth. When Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes sang of morphine and chocolate being her substitutes her words rang true for a lot of us who are doubly addicted to the junk and the chooies.

Substitute my gloom with happiness
Substitute my sickness with health
Substitute my enemies with real good friends
Morphine & chocolate are my
Substitute, substitutes

I definitely do my fair share to keep the chocolate bar companies in the profits. Currently my favourite is the Kit Kat because its got real chocolate, and well, I don’t really know why else…

Kit Kat

The other drug that goes with drugs is tobacco. And it can be pretty expensive itself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, not only dollar-wise (cough, cough).

To save a few (more than a few) buck on cigarettes we make a monthly treek to a local native reserver where we can get 200+ king-size filtered smokes in a zip-locked bag for $12. Sometimes $10. Considering that a pack of regular costs around $9 we save a ton of money going to the reserve.

Its kind of interesting how many cigarette retailers there are on the reserve. Driving along a few of the main roads there are lots of signs for “cheap smokes” and literally dozens of outlets right from people’s homes. As well, there are portable trailers scattered around that serve as drive-through smoke shops, where you just pull up to a side window and hand through your $12 or $24 bucks and get a couple big bags of smokes. And they always toss in a lighter for free, which is kind of cool.

Cheap native-made smokes are also available online. For example, you can get a cartoon of Huron smokes delivered to your door for $11.95 from Indian Smokes Online or get a cartoon of American Brands for $10 from Native Smokes. The smokes we get are manufactured by Grand River Enterprise in Ontario.

Huron smokes ….. Mohawk Nation News - Daily News from the Mohawk Nation

I certainly don’t reccomend smoking, but if you’ve got the habit, you should check out native smoke shops and stop wasting so much money on your smokes. And besides, it’s always a good thing to put some bucks into native-run businesses.

Not to be confused with the band Morphine and Chocolate



Whack, whack, whack, strike out!
June 11, 2007, 9:31 pm
Filed under: JUNKe life

Like a well-trained grunt in the junkie army, I could almost prepare and shoot a hit with a blindfold on. It’s a rote learning thing, day after day, several times a day. In fact, (averaging roughly 90 minutes per day preparing and doing hits) I’ve devoted just over 23 complete days this past year just shooting up! Amazing, nearly one entire month cooking up and doing injections. That is to say, 1/12th of my present life. I’m repeating this fact in several ways because I am astounding myself with the cumulative total of just how much of my life is occupied with getting the job done.

Yes indeed, I’ve got my fixing routine (“ritual” if you’re a sociologist) down pat.

So how the hell did I miss an entire 70 units from a 100 unit syringe this morning?

Normally, when a miss starts, the area surrounding the needle point immediately swells with a little bump and I stop instantly. Usually no more than a couple units will have gone into the tissues surrounding the vein.

But this morning I didn’t see any swelling. I injected at least half of the syringe before I even sensed something was amiss (aha, bang-on pun). And still, it took awhile more before I stopped pressing down on the plunger.

Strike Out!

I withdrew the needle with a sinking feeling – “damn, I’ve messed up my best remaining vein”. That concerned me more than the potential health problem I’d likely caused myself. Instead of taking ten minutes to attend to the miss with a bit of care giving – hot water, hot compress, and massage to break up the concentration of miss that was in the immediately surrounding tissues – I immediately proceeded to cook up another hit and get it into me. The care giving could wait until after I’d taken care of myself.

However, once I did get the hit into me, I proceeded to the bathroom and ran scalding water over the miss, while kneading the area as forcefully as I could stand to try and break up the concentration and spread it out. I had missed into the vein on the top of my right wrist and the whole area was massively swollen. Right across the width of my wrist, and up my forearm about four inches.

Unfortunately we’d just run out of some morphine pills that cook back very liquidy and were now using MS Contin. If I’d missed with the other pills, the swelling would have been minimal. But MS Contins cook up as the gunkiest injectable substance of all the morphine pills. And that’s why it was such a large swelling. On the other hand, despite its substantiveness, the ingredients that make up an MS Contin are all relatively benign, and therefore aren’t really toxis or likely, in and of themselves, to cause an infection. They just cause a painful swelling. One which peaks after a couple days, and then dissipates over the next week or so. Besides swelling, there’s usually quite a lot of inflammation and the area of the miss becomes very hot.

Right now my wrist is quite tender to touch and it is very hot. In the morning, my fingers will likely be swollen and the joints very tight and sore. But I can tell that its a clean miss, and I don’t have to worry about it going bad and necessitating a trip to the hospital for lancing and antibiotics.

How the hell I managed to make such a huge miss is beyond me. I must have been on total auto-pilot, and barely semi-conscious of what I was doing. I suppose I should start taking time to wash the sleep from my eyes, and down a bit more of my morning coffee, before going for the first whack of the day. Because I definitely struck out this morning! And I can’t afford to strike out too often.



Got to admit it’s getting better…
June 11, 2007, 10:58 am
Filed under: JUNKe life

Actually my life is a lot less chaotic these past couple years.  Even though I’m still using daily, I’m not running around in what’s referred to as “the life” these days.  I attribute my current stability to methadone maintenance.

I’m no longer on methadone maintenance, and haven’t been for about three years.  However, it was methadone maintenance that got me out of “the life” and enabled me to get my life straightened out, so to speak.

What’s so great about methadone maintenance.  Well, it isn’t the methadone.  It’s the maintenance.  Maintenance is being prescribed a daily dose of an opiate (in this case, methadone).  By being able to have one’s habit provided through a doctor’s prescription, one no longer has to scramble to make money, and to score.  Therefore, one is able to removed oneself from the drug scene since one’s reason for being in it in the first place is to find drugs.  Now that  the drugs come from a pharmacy one doesn’t need to hang with other users andealers in order to survive.

Maintenance means getting a dialy opiate drug to feed one’s opiate dependency.  Feeding the dependency is what being addicted is all about.  The imperative to feed one’s dependency is what causes people to sacrifice everything in order to keep that monkey on our backs feed.  Because we know from harsh experience, if we don’t feed it, we suffer big time.

I spent four years on maintenance and through those four years I was able to save some money, get my head back together, and eventually buy a house and move to the country.  It was actually amazing how quickly things started falling back into place when I no longer had to scramble day in and day out for drugs, and spend every damn penny I could beg, borrow and steal (yes, steal) to purchase drugs and super-inflated illicit market prices.

The first thing I purchased was a computer.  I spend a lot of time on it.  Being on the computer was a good way to fill my days when I was first on maintenance.  It gave me something to do and kept me occuppied.  That was important because it is often boredom that returns people to the street.

I spend a fair bit of time in methadone forums, chatting with other people on methadone maintenance.  Not only did I get help from others, but I was able to assist newbies in understanding the process of methadone maintenance and help them to not get frustrated when everything didn’t automatically go right.

Eventually, I went of methadone completely.  That was a big step because I hadn’t been opiate-free in nearly a decade.  In other words, every single day for almost ten years I’d taken some opiate drug – usually injecting morphine or heroin.  So to finally meet a day when I was entirely drug free was a scary, yet very liberating thing.

Opps!

I went about two years without doing any drugs what-so-ever.  But then one day, while visiting a friend who was using heroin, I decided to give it a try again.  I had no intention of starting to use regularly again.  I just wanted to get high once or twice.  It blew my mind how little heroin I needed to take to get very high.  I mean, one-tenth of what I used to do just to not get sick, now got me extremely high.  So, the little bit I purchased, lasted me way longer than I expected.  Too long as it turns out.  Because I was able to do a little bit each day for six days, and then at the end of those six days, lo and behold, I was wired again.

So for the past two years I’ve been using everyday.  Caught up again in the dependency trap where I have to get some opiates into me or I’ll get very, very sick with withdrawal.  And I’m getting to the age where undergoing withdrawal (never a picnic at the best of times) would be very risky to my health.  So need and fear keep me using.

Luckily, I’m not back in the chaoitic life.  I have my schedule organized.  I score, and I score in bulk, enough to last me until I score again.  When I was penniless in the past, I could never score in bulk, and could never get ahead.  Now I’m able to do so.  Although it is getting a bit harder to keep up as the months go by because my habit keeps getting larger.

There’s a nasty little paradox with opiates and its called tolerance.  You soon are able to tolerate what just weeks ago would have been a dangerously large dose.  Through tolerance you have to keep increasing your dose just to get the same result.  Evenually you become so tolerant that you don’t hardly get high anymore, you just use so as not to get sick.

Along the way I’ve managed two university degress (undergrad and grad), gotten married, fathered a daughter, and gotten divorced.  Today, I’m happily involved with a woman whose my partner in every sense of the word.  We morgage our house together, we raise our children together, we do dope together, we work for drug users rights together.

Its tough maintaining a house and a habit, but it is infinitely easier than the hussle of “the life” and infinitely more rewarding as well.  Oh, and did I say, I intend to stop using again… someday!



Yes James, we’re outta control…
June 9, 2007, 5:57 pm
Filed under: JUNKe life

Out of control? Too true! We turn into drug pigs whenever we have a lost of stuff. So much denial and refusal to believe that the cupboard will run dry eventually. Every day we tell ourselves to start slowing down because if we don’t we’ll regret it. We will run out and we don’t have any money to re-supply. Even though we know this, we act otherwise. We keep doing extra hits even when we don’t need another hit in the least. We do another hit just two hours after the previous one. Sure, we get a bit higher, but what about next week when we’re going to need that hit just to not get sick and it won’t be there? It’s completely crazy. It’s addiction.

We seem pathologically unable to control ourselves. We’re completely conscious of the absurdity of using up our stash by doing hits that aren’t needed, and yet we go ahead and do them anyways. As long as there’s a bunch of pills in the cupboard, we just can’t cut back even though we’re painfully aware that we have to.

Lego Car Crash

It would be so much easier to drop from six pills per day, to five per day, to four per day, to three per day by making the drop every four days. But we’re using up the surplus that would allow that moderate reduction. Now we’ll have to cut from six per day to three per day in a single drop. And if we don’t get control soon, we’ll be faced with a drop from six to two.

We count up the days until resupply and should divide the total number of pills into those day to determine how many we can do per day. So, we know we should be at four per day. A couple more days, and we’ll have to be a three per day. At that point, if we go just a couple more days at six, we’ll find we’ve only got enough to be doing two per day. Its inevitable. After all, there’s a finite total in the cupboard to begin with, and each time we dip into it, there’s less.

All this we know, yet we tell ourselves, let’s do another. Tomorrow we’ll get on schedule. And we know we’re making the schedule more difficult every time we tell ourselves that. And we tell ourselves that over and over and over again. It is maddening, perplexing, crazy making, and ultimately, it sabotages our well-being in a big, big way. We had enough to be on easy street, provided we didn’t make pigs of ourselves. So what did we do? We made pigs of ourselves. Self-control is so desired, yet so impossible.

So we tell one another to remind each other that we need to exercise control. But it doesn’t work. Because there’s no conviction when we say “we really shouldn’t do another” or “let’s just go to sleep now”. No mater what we say, you can bet that five minutes later we’ll be cooking up. We had a parachute but instead of deploying it, we took it off. And then when we realize we really need it, and that there’s time to put it back on, we drop it instead. We keep pushing the button that keeps making the walls close it. It is truly strange. There’s only one way to explain it. Addiction is real! Really!