JUNKe Life

Addiction Compassion: Punishment isn’t the cure
February 9, 2010, 3:42 am
Filed under: Drug Politics, harm reduction

I happen to have been reading the book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Mate for the past couple of weeks (its sits on the toilet paper stand in the bathroom awaiting my return). Good shit – the book, that is. It was a Christmas gift which arrived with a couple other books in the mail and if I wasn’t a constipated junkie I’d have probably finished it by now. The good doctor really puts some of the biological and neuro-chemical realities into plain explanations and always with compassion for the “hard core drug addict”. As well he certainly debunks the psuedo-scientific crap that passes for much of the so-called addiction science. The book has been quite a hit up here in Canada over the past year or so. I’m about half way through it and its actually quite a bit better than I expected it might be. I wouldn’t be mentioning it here if I didn’t think it is actually a worthwhile read.

Dr. Mate expresses this sort of sentiment, and therefore he’d certainly agree that: Drug dependence isn’t a moral issue

I mention Dr. Mate’s book because today I got an email with a link to this Addiction Compassion interview that Dr. Mate gave to Seattle’s Real Change Newspaper (in linked article check out the “photo slideshow of the darker side”) last December.


Another of the books within that Christmas package is a fantastic gem entitled Raise Shit! : Social Action Saving Lives which is a collaboration from three people regarding the first decade of VANDU, the drug users’ group in Vancouver. One of the big struggles (and victories) VANDU was directly involved in was establishing the first “official” safer injection site – INSITE slideshow (see post directly below). However, in the battles leading up to the opening of Insite less is known about VANDU operating an “illegal” injection site for the proceeding six months in their effort to force the issues. Raise Shit! provides background details about that sort of drug user activism throughout VANDU’s first decade:

Revealing a social justice movement that culminated through community activism in Vancouver’s downtown east side, [Raise Shit!] documents the opening of the first official safe injection site. Told from the point of view of drug users–those most affected by drug policy, political decisions, and policing–this narrative is conveyed through a montage of poetry and photos of early Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users meetings, journal entries from the Back Alley–the unofficial safe injection site–and excerpts from significant health and media reports. Chronicling the harms of prohibition and emphasizing the concepts of kindness, awakening, and collective action, this recollection spotlights a community of prophets who rebuked the system, bringing hope into situations of apparent impossibility.

– review from Flipcart, India’s biggest online bookseller

vandu anniversary 10years

We can learn a lot about social organizing from Raise Shit! VANDU did not begin because of a conscious decision to start a drug users’ group but rather it arose out of drug users coming together (in a park and a church basement) to talk about the dire issues that they faced (such as overdose, HIV and police abuse) and their anger regarding such threats to their survival. By collectively identifying their issues, users realized they would need a group in order to struggle to address their issues in a sustainable manner.

1 Comment so far
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i cannot find a place here to email the owner of this site. I wish to thank that person for the help i get here that i am afraid to ask for elsewhere. Im pretty straight but love the people in my life who are users. I dont care to take care of them through dt’s and dope sickness. I love them even when they are vulnerable. Id love to hear from others in my place…

Comment by mamacita

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