July 21 is being observed by drug users worldwide as a Remembrance Day for those of us who have died preventable deaths as a result of the conditions we face due to drug war policies. The German national drug users organization, JES, produces an annual report on the memorials held by drug user groups in Germany and internationally. It is a very impressive document. Download it here.
A free download of a book about the impact of the drug war on children is available.
HIV and Injecting Drug Use: A Global Call for Action
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Filed under: Drug Politics
Bruce K. Alexander, a prof at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., has numerous writings on drugs and crime which are well worth studying.
With his latest treatise, Rise and Fall of the Official View of Addiction, Alexander assassinates the traditional view of addiction. While never ignoring the role of the individual, “dislocation” theory places the root of addiction at the injustices and discombobulations of societies, rather than the weakness and sickness of people who develop drug dependencies.
As Alexander concludes:
Addiction is one of the windows through which we can view the widespread psychological malaise and the underlying structural problems of a tottering civilization…
While recognizing the importance of treatment and harm reduction, [Alexander] puts the greatest emphasis on … fundamental social change as the most important means of bringing addiction under control.
In other words, ’til the Revolution comes, what else can I do but keep on nodding through these end times. Makes more sense than being a sick, weak willed screw-up, doesn’t it?
In November 2010 hundreds of Brazilian police invade shantytown neighbourhoods (favelas) in Rio de Janeiro to arrest (kill) “drug gangs and traffickers”. At least 42 people died, many more wounded, while not many arrests were made. See pictures from Boston Globe.
Thoughtful article detailing Afghanistan as a Drug War written by Alfred McCoy, the fellow who put heroin politics on the (relatively) popular map with his 1972 book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.
Former Police-man, the King of Pain himself, Sting expresses himself strongly in a public letter entitled Let’s End the War on Drugs:
For too long, the War on Drugs has been a sacrosanct undertaking that was virtually immune from criticism in the public realm. Politicians dared not disagree for fear of being stigmatized as “soft on crime.” Any activist who spoke up was dismissed as a fringe element.
But recently, I discovered just how much that’s changing–and that’s how I came to speak out on behalf of an extraordinary organization called the Drug Policy Alliance…
Their work spoke directly to my heart as an activist for social justice — because ending the War on Drugs is about exactly that.
One voice, many voices, a virtual choir, of thousands, millions, billions, singing, demanding, “Change! Change now! Change today! Change Tomorrow! Change because we won’t stand for this shit no more!” Ahhhh, yeah, I like that.
In case you’re not getting enough laughs on a daily basis… enjoy!
And now seriously folks, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network has produced On the Road to Activism, an excellent 76 page report on drug user activism (with a special focus on Eastern European countries). Download your copy here – it’s worth it just for the fantastic photos of junky graffiti.
And on an equally serious note, check out The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition (2008) by Harvard University Department of Economics Professor Jeffrey Miron. Although focused on U.S. stats regarding the wastefulness of prohibition, it addresses the potential for Tax Revenue from Drug Legalization which is the sort of exploration that is critical when arguing for realistic alternatives to the dismal status quo.
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
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.