Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Search for Non Addictive Morphine

Commonly Available Drug Found To Treat Opioid Addiction
Feb 2009

Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that a commonly available non-addictive drug can prevent symptoms of withdrawal from opioids with little likelihood of serious side effects. The drug, ondansetron, which is already approved to treat nausea and vomiting, appears to avoid some of the problems that accompany existing treatments for addiction to these powerful painkillers, the scientists said.

Opioids encompass a diverse array of prescription and illegal drugs, including codeine, morphine and heroin. In 2007, about 12.5 million Americans aged 12 and older used prescription pain medications for non-medical purposes, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"Opioid abuse is rising at a faster rate than any other type of illicit drug use, yet only about a quarter of those dependent on opioids seek treatment," said Larry F. Chu, MD, assistant professor of anesthesia at the School of Medicine and lead author of the study that will be published online Feb. 17 in the Journal of Pharmacogenetics and Genomics. "One barrier to treatment is that when you abruptly stop taking the drugs, there is a constellation of symptoms associated with withdrawal." Chu described opioid withdrawal as a "bad flu," characterized by agitation, insomnia, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Current methods of treatment are not completely effective, according to Chu. One drug used for withdrawal, clonidine, requires close medical supervision as it can cause severe side effects, while two others, methadone and buprenorphine, don't provide a satisfactory solution because they act through the same mechanism as the abused drugs. "It's like replacing one drug with another," said co-investigator Gary Peltz, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesia.

"What we need is a magic bullet," said Chu. "Something that treats the symptoms of withdrawal, does not lead to addiction and can be taken at home."

The researchers' investigation led them to the drug ondansetron, after they determined that it would block certain receptors involved in withdrawal symptoms.

The scientists were able to make this connection thanks to their having a good animal model for opioid dependence. Mice given morphine for several days develop the mouse equivalent of addiction. Researchers then stop providing morphine to trigger withdrawal symptoms. Strikingly, these mice, when placed into a plastic cylinder, will start to jump into the air. One can measure how dependent these mice are by counting how many times they jump. Like humans, dependent mice also become very sensitive to pain when they stop receiving morphine.

But the responses vary among the laboratory animals. There are "different flavors of mice," explained Peltz. "Some strains of mice are more likely to become dependent on opioids." By comparing the withdrawal symptoms and genomes of these different strains, it's possible to figure out which genes play a major role in addiction.

To accomplish this feat, Peltz and his colleagues used a powerful computational "haplotype-based" genetic mapping method that he had recently developed, which can sample a large portion of the genome within just a few hours. This method pinpoints genes responsible for the variation in withdrawal symptoms across these strains of mice.

The analysis revealed an unambiguous result: One particular gene determined the severity of withdrawal. That gene codes for the 5-HT3 receptor, a protein that responds to the brain-signaling chemical serotonin.
To confirm these results, the researchers injected the dependent mice with ondansetron, a drug that specifically blocks 5-HT3 receptors. The drug significantly reduced the jumping behavior of mice as well as pain sensitivity — two signs of addiction.

The scientists were able to jump from "from mouse to man" by sheer luck: It turns out that ondansetron is already on the market for the treatment of pain and nausea. As a result, they were able to immediately use this drug, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, in eight healthy, non-opioid-dependent humans. In one session, they received only a single large dose of morphine, and in another session that was separated by at least week, they took ondansetron in combination with morphine. They were then given questionnaires to assess their withdrawal symptoms.

Similar to mice, humans treated with ondansetron before or while receiving morphine showed a significant reduction in withdrawal signs compared with when they received morphine but not ondansetron. "A major accomplishment of this study was to take lab findings and translate them to humans," said principal investigator J. David Clark, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Chu plans on conducting a clinical study to confirm the effectiveness of another ondansetron-like drug in treating opioid withdrawal symptoms in a larger group of healthy humans. And the research team will continue to test the effectiveness of ondansetron in treating opioid addiction.

The scientists warned that ondansetron will not by itself resolve the problems that arise with continued use of these painkillers. Addiction is a long-term, complex process, involving both physical and psychological factors that lead to compulsive drug use. "This is not a cure for addiction," said Clark. "It's naïve to think that any one receptor is a panacea for treatment. Treating the withdrawal component is only one way of alleviating the suffering. With luck and determination, we can identify additional targets and put together a comprehensive treatment program."

Collaborators on this study included De-Yong Liang, PhD, the study's co-lead author, previously a research associate in the Department of Anesthesia and currently a research associate at the Palo Alto Institute for Research and Education; Xiangqi Li, MD, a life science research assistant in the department; Nicole D'Arcy, a medical student: Peyman Sahbaie, MD, a research associate at the institute; and Guochun Liao, PhD, of the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche. This work was supported by grants to Clark from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and grants to Chu from the NIH and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The researchers are working with the Stanford University Office of Technology Licensing to seek a patent for the use of ondansetron and related medicines in the treatment of drug addiction.

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Stanford University Medical Center.

Related Articles: 

Friday, 27 February 2009

Diary: The Health System

DIARY: A short while ago, I had decided to apply for sickness benefits at Centrelink whilst I sort out some medical issues. This is because I wouldn’t be able to work for a few months and a regular income is essential. Sounds easy doesn’t it.

I have previously been on unemployment benefits for a few short periods and the only long period was when I was 17 and living away from home. The last time was about 8 years ago and after a few months I found a full time job which was a relief because Centrelink is HELL! I vowed never to return.

I thought the sickness allowance would be different though but there was a new problem ... my doctor! I like my doctor but his administration skills are poorly lacking. Problems usually involve his holidays where it is impossible to contact him or he doesn’t think through the needs of his patients.

Last time he went on holidays, he told me that another doctor would see me whilst he was away. When I turned up, the doctor knew nothing about it. Asking the doctor to ring the health department to authorise a permit for a month’s supply of morphine to a heroin addict was problematic enough but my 6 monthly authority had ran out as well. It finally was approved but it took an hour and the doctor was not happy. In a busy clinic, an hour for one patient means the other patients had to wait that extra time as well. As you can imagine, there were a few complaints.

 So now my doctor was going away again so I explained to him what happened last time. He said he had a better idea and told me to pick up a script in 3 weeks time which he would leave at reception for me. I did as I was told and went to the chemist as usual with the script he had pre-written. Easy. Then it all started again.

To avoid having to apply for a 30 day permit, my doctor had written 3 separate scripts for a lesser quantity to get me by until he returned in 13 days. The pharmacist (who I deal with every week) said the scripts didn’t say weekly pick up so I had to come in every day and pick up one days worth of medication at a time. He told me he knew what the doctor meant and it had always been a weekly pick up but there was nothing he could do. He suggested I ring the doctor’s clinic and get a letter authorising me to pick up weekly and until then I had to come in every day. I paid and left very unhappy.

Luckily the next day, another pharmacist told me that because we had been doing a weekly pick up for so long that he would use his discretion and allow me weekly pick ups. I asked why my regular pharmacist didn’t do the same and I was told that my regular pharmacist wasn’t sure because he wasn’t used to dealing with me. What could I say? He had ONLY been my regular pharmacist for 4 months.

But the worse was yet to come. I then had to pay for another 2 scripts as well. WTF?! So what was normally about $33 per month had to be paid 3 times ... for 13 days supply. Then when I next saw my doctor, I had to pay for another script. In total, I had to pay for 4 scripts for the month, 4 x $33. BTW, When I asked my doctor why the hell he wrote 3 separate scripts and thus 3 separate payments as well as the new script, he just shrugged and said, “oh well”.

 Back to sickness benefits. I had to resupply another medical certificate to replace an older certificate my doctor gave me, which had expired on Feb 10. I went to the doctor and he wrote another certificate. I then went to Centrelink a few days later and there were 60 people in the queue at 4.00pm. I was not going to be seen that day so I came back the next morning. After waiting 45 minutes in the queue I finally was attended to. After 15 minutes of phone calls and talking to other Centrelink employees, the person serving me said that my doctor had not filled out the dates properly so I would need to go back to him, get another medical certificate and return to Centrelink.

Oh dear god! I remembered why I vowed never to rely on Centrelink for income. Maybe I should have vowed never to return to my doctor?

Centrelink was surprisingly good without too many mistakes. It did take 3 months to get the right ID and forms filled out and they forgot to photocopy the back of some document. I wasn’t desperate for cash so it wasn’t too much of a worry. The problem is that I had to go to Centrelink 6 times so far and waiting in a queue for at least 30 minutes each visit. The other complaint is being told different things by different people. All this for $250 a week and a healthcare card. I suppose the healthcare card saves a bit considering all the medication I am on. Over all, I was happy with Centrelink. My real complaint is aimed at my doctor and the chemist. I have written about them before and I think somehow I will write about them again.

When you step back and compare the system I am complaining about to the US health and welfare system, I should count myself lucky. If I had been in the US, I would be homeless and a desperate junkie. Because of my drug history, I would be unemployable and not eligible for welfare housing. I would receive no income support and have to rely on charities for food. My SROM treatment would never had happened and I would not be able to afford methadone. A bleak picture indeed. The US mindset of avoiding “socialised medicine” at any cost is just unworkable ideology from the conservative elite. Leaving health to the business sector, insurance companies and big pharma has not worked out well for the US. For all the faults of our system, the main perpetrators that affected me were private businesses. The Medicare levy now seems like a very small price to pay.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Heroin Assisted Treatment in a Pill

Although heroin assisted treatment (HAT) and the many heroin trials have all been very successful, it is still not the perfect solution. Having to visit a clinic 2-3 times a day and the problems associated with injecting are the 2 main obstacles for patients. Some smart cookie in Canada though has come up with a fantastic idea that might go a long way to treating hard core addicts without these obstacles. Heroin in a pill.

The idea of providing morphine, heroin or hydromorphone to hard core addicts is not new and when put into practice has had great success. Sadly though, through blind ignorance, selling the proposal that drug addicts are given addictive drugs legally to inject has not been easy with the media often whipping up a storm of drug hysteria and governments scared of a public backlash. Supplying the drugs via a pill may be the answer. Fear of take away supplies being diverted to the black market would still be a major concern for many so there would need to be a strict monitoring system in place. It is achievable though with a well thought out system. Diversion though, in the real world becomes less of an issue when this simple question is asked:

Why would patients sell their high quality, legal heroin? ... to buy low quality street heroin?

Methadone may be the default treatment but it certainly has it’s problems. As someone who has been on methadone, buprenorphine and Slow Release Oral Morphine (SROM) to treat my heroin addiction, I can testify to the superiority of a morphine pill. Methadone often leaves the patient ‘flat’ which usually doesn’t happen when given drugs like Morphine. For those who don’t respond to methadone, detox. or rehab, having more options can only be beneficial. Once we start getting serious about treating addiction without the accrued bias from years of misinformation, morphine, heroin or hydromorphone in a pill becomes attractive. With strict guidelines, therapy/counselling and close monitoring, we might finally begin to help those long term users who don’t respond to current treatments and continue to use street drugs.

Can Pill Replace Heroin For Addicts?
Febuary 2009
Video report from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber

Researchers behind a controversial approach to Vancouver's drug problem are trying to launch a new study.

Hundreds of people took part in the NAOMI project, which stands for North American Opiate Medication Initiative. The project provided drug addicts with heroin, methadone and a pain medication called Dilaudid.

Rob Vincent took part in NAOMI. He says his health improved and he was able to work.

"I didn't have to worry about waking up in the morning and worry about where I'm going to come up with the money to get better now," he said.

Now there's a proposal for a similar study, called SALOME (Study to Assist Longer Term Opiod Medication Effectiveness) which would eventually test whether injectable drugs could be replaced with a pill.

"If you could get some people onto oral medication they could be treated much more simply," said Dr. Martin Schechter, a former NAOMI researcher.

The province has called NAOMI's results promising -- but says it's waiting for peer-reviewed published findings. Meanwhile, research advocates hope Tuesday's budget will include money for an international research treatment centre in BC.

"We have world class leading expertise here in Vancouver today," says Trish Walsh with the Inner Change Foundation. "We're just not giving them the tools to do the job."

The NAOMI project ended up finding pain medication worked just as well as heroin. But Dr. Schechter says when the three year study ended, so did the benefits for many of the participants.

"What we've learned is some of the people...a significant proportion of the people that were doing well subsequently relapsed in the first six months," he said.

Rob Vincent relapsed more than once.

"If you're going to make a project such as that where you're going to get everybody's hopes least make it so it's continuous, and if you are going to have a cut-off date, have some sort of back-up, so that they're not just being thrown out back onto the street," he said.

The new project being proposed is another three year study.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

UK Gov: How Dare You Tell the Truth about Ecstasy ... Apologise Now!

According to the British Government, telling the truth might not be the right thing to do. Last month, Professor David Nutt, chairman of the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) wrote in a medical journal that “Taking the drug ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse”. Although it’s a fact it still caused outrage throughout the UK including from the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

She [Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith] demanded an apology and told the professor that his comments went beyond the scientific advice she expected from him. "I've spoken to him. I've told him that I was surprised and profoundly disappointed," Smith told MPs yesterday. She said they made light of a serious problem, trivialised the dangers of drugs, showed insensitivity to the families of victims, and sent the wrong message to young people.

Smith's attack on Nutt, the new chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, comes when this week it will publish a report expected to recommend downgrading ecstasy from class A to class B. Smith has made clear she will veto the council's view as she rejected its advice last year not to reclassify cannabis.

Lib Dem MP Evan Harris complained to the Speaker at Smith's attack, describing Nutt as a "distinguished scientist" unable to answer back in parliament for what was set out in a scientific publication. His article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology was written before he became chairman, but picked up in the weekend press.
-The Guardian - Drugs adviser says sorry over ecstasy article

This reaction from UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith is disgraceful on several fronts. First of all, the statement was part of an article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology last month and was only recently reported in the news. Secondly, since when does a government official publicly criticise a professor for the contents of a scientific paper? More importantly, why was professor Nutt demanded to make an apology for telling the truth?

Professor Nutt did offer an apology but didn’t backtrack on his statement. He apologised saying he had 
"no intention of trivialising the dangers of ecstasy" and "I am sorry to those who may have been offended by my article. I would like to apologise to those who have lost friends and family due to ecstasy use". Some media reports jokingly questioned why Professor Nutt was not also made to apologised to those who had lost friends and family from horse riding.

According to Nutt, a Scottish study suggests that one reason for ecstasy's "peculiarly prominent place" within the media dates back to the 1990s, when every single ecstasy-related death was covered in detailed by the Scottish press while far fewer other drug-related deaths were reported.

The mental health effects are said to be relatively few in both the short and long term, with few people becoming dependent. The ACMD also concludes that those who take ecstasy are not commonly seen to become violent or engage in behaviour that leads to public order offences.
-The Guardian - Government criticised over refusal to downgrade ecstasy

To make matters worse, Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith declared she would veto the council’s recommendation of downgrading ecstasy from class A to class B even before the findings were officially released. This bizarre behaviour has raised many concerns about why the government has spent millions of dollars on a report they are going to dismiss if it doesn’t fit in with their particular ideology or current policies. For Jacqui Smith to declare that she was going to veto the report regardless of the evidence or the facts before she even reads it is shameful. Is this how the government was intended to be run?

The prime minister's strategy unit reported last year that current drug policy was failing - so the government sought to suppress the report. The independent RSA Commission, after two years painstakingly investigating drug policy, recommended more emphasis on harm reduction - and was ignored.
The Guardian - We need a sensible debate about drugs - but that's impossible while ministers float above it all

This is the second ACMD report commissioned by the UK government that has been tossed aside and rejected. The first report recommended that cannabis stay downgraded as a class C drug but that was rejected by the government after being implemented in 2004. With many fearing that cannabis use would explode when it was first downgraded, the level of use actually dropped whilst it was a class C drug. There was no reason what-so-ever for a reclassification back up to class B. In fact it should have been reason enough to accept more AMCD recommendations especially the down grading of ecstasy. With ecstasy use rising under the current A classification, what did they have to lose? The answer is irrelevant as we have seen evidence and facts have no bearing on government policy decisions. It’s the usual case of “sending the wrong message” being more important than people’s lives.

We don't need to see things with our own eyes to believe them; we're not Neanderthals. But we do need to be assured that advice is evidence-based, that the authorities haven't just ignored the evidence and gone ahead anyway. I contend that the negative consequences of this mummy-knows-best approach have already gone beyond the world of class C drugs. I bet this is why so many young people have stopped using condoms and are getting syphilis.
-The Guardian - Mum doesn't know best

What will happen to drug use levels as a result of the governments refusal to reclassify ecstasy? Remember that this recommendation is only to lower the classification of ecstasy not to legalise it. There would still be harsh penalties of up to 5 years jail for possession. By doing nothing, it seems logical that ecstasy use will continue on it’s merry way.

The Runciman Report of 2000, for example, suggested that ecstasy may be several thousand times less dangerous than heroin – despite both being class A drugs – with ecstasy users exhibiting little or no evidence of the withdrawal symptoms usually associated with physical dependency. The home affairs select committee's 2002 report The government's drug policy – is it working? estimated that fewer than 10 people died a year from taking ecstasy, 3% of the number of deaths attributed to heroin. Both reports recommended the downgrading of ecstasy from class A to class B, and both were rejected on the grounds that reclassification would be irresponsible.
-The Guardian - Severe side effects of drug policy

The UK continue with the dubious record of having the highest rate of illicit drug use in Europe along with some of the harshest penalties and toughest policing. It’s obvious their “tough on drugs” approach isn’t working but the UK government refuses to listen to alternative strategies recommended by experts. Government arrogance is nothing new but repeating the same old policies over and over expecting a different result is just stupidity. More importantly, it costs lives and creates massive suffering which appears to be overlooked by the media and the government themselves.

Related Links:
Top Drug Advisor - Ecstasy is Safe as Riding a Horse
Drugs adviser says sorry over ecstasy article
Government criticised over refusal to downgrade ecstasy
Severe side effects of drug policy
We need a sensible debate about drugs - but that's impossible while ministers float above it all
Home secretary rejects advice to downgrade ecstasy

Friday, 20 February 2009

Heroin Assisted Treatment Winning Approval in Europe

As heroin assisted treatment (HAT) continues to grow in Europe, the issue is starting to be raised again in Australia. Will Kevin Rudd adhere to his statement that Australia needs new ideas and fresh thinking when it comes to drugs and will his response will be evidence based? Or will he follow the worn out and tired, old rhetoric of John Howard and argue it sends the wrong message?

Australia needs new ideas and fresh thinking when it comes to dealing with critical and continuing problems such as drugs and crime.  But our response must be tough, targeted and evidence-based -Kevin Rudd. Then Federal Opposition Leader
When the ACT heroin trials were sunk by Howard about 11 years ago, he had the US pressuring him in their manic drive for Zero Tolerance drug strategies and also very strong personal views echoed by the then influential religious right and MSM. Are these overwhelming factors for Rudd or will he take the advice of experts and prioritise the well being of addicts and the benefits to society? We can only hope that the Rudd government will base these important health decisions on the continuing success overseas and pragmatic, evidence based results.

Dose Of Reality Fuels New Initiatives To Help Addicts
By Gwladys Fouché
The Guardian
February 2009

State-funded heroin is becoming a reality in Denmark, the latest in a small, but growing, number of European countries – including the UK – concerned with improving drug users' quality of life and reducing criminality.

Since 1 January, hundreds of drug addicts in the Nordic country have the right to receive two free doses of heroin a day, paid for by their health system. The offer is only for adult, long-term users for whom substitutes such as methadone and subutex have not worked.

"The aim is to improve their state of health, help them avoid committing crimes and stabilise their lives," explains Dr Anne Mette Doms at the Danish Board of Health, which supervises the project.

"Quitting altogether is not a realistic option for most of these patients. For them, this will be a chronic treatment, as if you were treating a chronic disease."

Addicts will need to attend one of five specialist drug clinics across the country, where they will inject diamorphine – pharmaceutical-grade heroin – under doctors' supervision. The drug will not be available on prescription so as to avoid resale on the street.

Danish authorities are in the process of setting up the clinics, registering the doctors who will work there, and finding out which drug companies they will source the heroin from.

The £7.2m project is expected to be up and running by March. The initiative was adopted by overwhelming consensus in February 2008, after all but one of the parties represented at the Danish parliament voted in favour of the policy – the only one against it was a tiny far-left party that did not oppose the project per se, but the way it was funded.

Among those in favour was the far-right Danish People's Party, a movement not usually known for its progressive views: at the last general election in 2007, it described some Danish Muslims as benefit-scroungers and fifth columnists who threatened Danish democracy.

Some might think this initiative is not surprising in a country with a historical tradition of progressive, social democratic policies. But, just as in the UK, the drug debate has been bruising in Denmark. And unlike in Britain, where heroin is available on the NHS for some cancer patients, heroin as a palliative is completely forbidden in the Nordic country.

"Five years ago I decided I would not participate in yet another debate on drugs," recalls Preben Brandt, the chairman of the Council for Socially Marginalised People and an advocate of the policy.

"It was too emotional, with different groups being very aggressive."

"The counter-argument was always 'you kill people by giving heroin' or 'with this initiative, you are telling people that taking heroin is OK'," he says.

"It is very difficult to have a rational debate when you are arguing against beliefs."

The turning point came when results became available from experiments trialling the policy in other European countries, including Switzerland and the Netherlands.

"The politicians became convinced that it could help those with the most severe drug problems," says Mads Uffe Pedersen, the head of the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research at the University of Aarhus.

"You could not argue against the (positive) findings."

"The debate became more practical," agrees Brandt.

"It was about what policies worked and which ones did not. It was no longer about morality."

Attitudes towards drugs addicts improved too.

"Drug addicts in Denmark are less stigmatised," says Brandt.

"They are no longer perceived as criminals who are a danger to society. They're seen as patients who have a disease they need help with. The new scapegoats in Denmark are the foreigners."

Could a similar initiative be possible in the UK? It's actually happening already, with three schemes taking place in Brighton, Darlington and south London, where long-term heroin users can inject drugs under medical supervision at specialised clinics.

Early results indicate that the scheme has cut crimes and stopped street sales. Crimes committed by the addicts involved in the scheme dropped from about 40 to six a month after six months of treatment, Professor John Strang, the head of the National Addiction Centre at the Maudsley hospital, told the Independent newspaper.

A third of addicts stopped using street heroin and the number of occasions when the rest used it dropped from every day to four or five times a month, on average. It remains to be seen whether UK politicians will expand the policy nationwide, especially if they fear a possible backlash from voters. But if British voters are similar to their European cousins, this would not be an issue. Last November, Swiss voters approved the scheme overwhelmingly, with 68% supporting the plan. And there has been no popular backlash in Denmark, following the adoption of the policy by parliament.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Lies, Deceit, DFA and Herschel Baker

The most obvious flaw with pushing Zero Tolerance drug policies and prohibition is that you have to lie. Not just a few ambiguous quasi-facts but straight out deceit. For those who are religious it becomes a major problem as lying is also a serious breach of their self proclaimed faith.

To be part of a mostly Christian group like Drug Free Australia (DFA) who consistently have to contradict facts and science to push their Zero Tolerance message, there must be some compelling motives. And there is. Selfish motives ... conservative ideology, evangelism, fear of a changing world etc. It's not about better treatment for addicts, helping people or being Christian. I doubt that anyone, especially dedicated Christians would support their cruel, non compassionate dogma. Some might argue that they should just be ignored as irrelevant, similar to the professionals who simply overlook them as unscientific, biased and agenda driven. The problem is that they are dangerous. So when I found this comment(below) posted on The Australian Drug Blog from DFA’s Herschel Baker, I decided it was so full of deceit in two short paragraphs that it needed a response.
The cost imposed by alcohol abuse on society exceeds billions annually. This cost is not met by the money collected yearly by alcohol tax revenues. Each day people die from alcohol-related deaths and drink driving. Do tax revenues cover these costs? The major danger and cost of alcohol use results from using alcohol to the point of intoxication. Illegal drugs are always used to the point of intoxication and the users pose an even greater risk of causing death from accidents, suicide, and criminal behavior. The only reason that the death rate from illicit drugs is lower than that caused by alcohol abuse is that such drugs are illegal. Our current system of drug prohibition actually saves thousands of lives and billions of dollars in economic resources.

Drug education and prevention is most effective when it is backed by strong laws and law enforcement. Alcohol, is a legal drug for adults, is by far the drug of choice among young people. Moreover, attitudes toward illicit drugs have become far more negative than teenage attitudes toward drinking. We have yet to determine how to keep over 90% of our high schools seniors from taking a drink. It is ludicrous to think that the temptation of trying legal cheap drugs could be overcome solely through educational efforts.

-Herschel Baker : Drug Free Australia (DFA) - The Australian Drug Blog
When I first read this post, instead of my usual head shaking in disbelief at their stupidity, I was outraged and angry. In what could possibly be the most disgraceful comments ever, Herschel Baker stated that prohibition has saved thousands of lives. The truth is, worldwide, prohibition has caused maybe a million or so deaths over the years including massive suffering and alienation. It also includes the deaths and suffering of people I know as well as my own experience.

Apart from the prohibition fallacy, the post included several other major lies. Is this the standard course of action for DFA? To trick the public, government and MSM into believing their deluded ideology? Is lying acceptable as a means to an end? Do they have a pass from god to lie? Maybe this is why the scientific and medical community treat them with so much suspicion and disdain. Whichever way you look at it, it is deceitful. The really disturbing claim in this post is that prohibition saves lives. There is no mention of those pesky druggies who died or suffered at the hands of prohibition. No remorse for the carnage caused on people’s lives. Just hollow praise for a sick lie.

For those who have died from a dirty hit, overdosed in secret, been a victim of drug crime, killed in the line of duty etc. - What about us!!!

For the residents of Mexico on the US border who have been decapitated, the Colombian public tortured by the paramilitary, the non violent detainees who have died in the barbaric US prison system, the drug couriers executed in SE Asia, the drug addicts jailed and beaten in Russia, the Middle East, China etc. - What about us!!!

For my friends/family who have died or suffered - What about us!!!

Baker’s farcical quest to help drug addicts and improve drug treatment is hypocritical, mendacious and deceitful. His real mission is to enforce his interpretation of god’s law on society regardless of the carnage it causes. Deliberately lying should worry a real Christian but when you support the massive death toll from prohibition over the years and even praise it, then lying is just a piss in the ocean in comparison.
Our current system of drug prohibition actually saves thousands of lives and billions of dollars in economic resources.
For fuck’s sake, the cost of prohibition is the single biggest argument against prohibition. The US spend $69 billion dollars every year fighting the unwinnable war on drugs. Australia spends over $10 billion (Federal, states, local government, policing, incarceration etc) in total with most going towards law and order. The jail costs alone to keep non violent drug users locked up is enormous throughout the world. The resources to arrest pot smokers and process them through court is huge and one of the biggest complaints from police forces. How can Herschel Baker claim prohibition saves $billions in resources? The fact is, it’s a lie and any normal person should know this.
The major danger and cost of alcohol use results from using alcohol to the point of intoxication. Illegal drugs are always used to the point of intoxication and the users pose an even greater risk of causing death from accidents, suicide, and criminal behavior.
Wrong. One standard drink causes a degree of intoxication. That’s the point isn’t it? Otherwise we would all be drinking chocolate milk, soft drink or non alcohol wine. Tricky Dicky Nixon tried that argument in the 1970s and look what that started - The "War on Drugs".

For the purposely ignorant, “a few drinks” has no effect. Not true. Alcohol gives you a mild relaxation effect from one standard drink. About the same effect as one Valium, a few puffs on a joint, a small amount of opiates like morphine or heroin. This old argument of “a few drinks versus getting stoned” was dismissed decades ago but the anti-drug crusaders continue to play on the public’s ignorance. The fallacy that drug users cannot vary their intake like drinkers do is part of the lie that any use of illicit drugs deems the user instantly “out of their mind”. Attaching “the users pose an even greater risk of causing death from accidents, suicide, and criminal behavior [sic]” to intoxication is part of a primary school formula; Intoxication = danger and drugs = intoxication so drugs = danger. The missing variables are drug type, intoxication type, levels of intoxication and harm level of intoxication per type. Much too complex for the public when you can simply lie.

But isn’t this the tried and tested strategy for DFA? Make drug use a simple moral issue and keep the complexities of scientific facts away from the public. The most important variable overlooked here is the type of drug and Baker puts them all in the same basket. When was the last time someone committed robbery purely because they were “intoxicated” from a joint?
The only reason that the death rate from illicit drugs is lower than that caused by alcohol abuse is that such drugs are illegal
Another lie. Drugs are already available everywhere and overall they are inherently less dangerous than alcohol. A survey published in 3 major US media outlets by LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) asked the question, would you use hard drugs if they were legal? 99% said no. Cannabis has already been used by 40% of the western world and many reports claim that teenagers find it easier to obtain cannabis than alcohol and cigarettes. The simple truth is that the drug using population is mostly saturated already. Sure, there might be a slight initial increase but it would have to increase about 10 fold to over 80% to match alcohol use.
Drug education and prevention is most effective when it is backed by strong laws and law enforcement.
Absolutely bullocks. There is no evidence what-so-ever that harsher penalties prevent drug use. This is easily demonstrated by the US having very strict drug laws but remain as the world’s number one illicit drug consumer. Incidentally, they spend $billions on education and prevention. On the other end of the scale, The Netherlands and Switzerland have much more liberal drug laws but use in these countries is below the European average.
We have yet to determine how to keep over 90% of our high schools seniors from taking a drink.
What a statement! Have we really tried to stop all high school seniors from “taking a drink”? (this reeks of the Temperance Movement). We actively promote alcohol through advertising and often encourage it as normal behaviour. Until the recent push by the Rudd government, there has never been a serious attempt at changing our drinking culture. But drinking is not the problem as European communities have been giving their children alcohol for centuries. It’s the countries that strongly enforce total abstinence for kids that introduces the “forbidden fruit” factor. For Herschel Baker and DFA, alcohol takes second place to drugs although it causes more damage than all illicit drugs combined. Adding comments like the above is an attempt to discredit a pragmatic approach to illicit drugs like education and reinforce Baker’s preferred tactic of being “tough on drugs”.
It is ludicrous to think that the temptation of trying legal cheap drugs could be overcome solely through educational efforts.
Ludicrous? It’s been done already. Does Herschel Baker forget about the success of anti-smoking campaigns for one of the world’s most harmful and addictive substances ... tobacco? DFA are a disgrace. Their inane ramblings now stand out instead of being lost in the daily barrage of similar, like minded ideology. The heyday of Howard’s 1950s style Australia is over and they no longer have unlimited government support. Now they must make their own way which seems to include making comments on internet blogs and lying. With the demise of Howard and Bush, organisations like DFA will have to face a future of Harm Minimisation and evidence based policies replacing faith based initiatives. Maybe this pragmatic new era will finally expose the lies and deceit of dangerous and desperate groups like DFA.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Diary: Happiness is ...

DIARY: One of the worst effects of drug addiction for me is the loss of interest in normal activities and interests. This has plagued me since my spiral into heroin addiction many years ago. Nick Miller from The Age has reported on some interesting new findings from Melbourne University which sheds more light how drug use causes this loss of interest.

THE sight of happy children or delicious food will usually trigger an instinctive flash of happiness. But illicit drug users are dulled to these "natural" pleasures, possibly because the drug has warped the brain's reward system, according to world-first Melbourne University research.
For myself, this lost of interest is one of the main reasons for relapsing and I imagine this is also the case for many others. So when I read the article below, my mind was filled with a mixture of thoughts. Although I had learnt a while back that my heroin addiction was just as much a physical problem as it was psychological, I still couldn’t help feeling relief. The common perception that all drug addicts are selfish and weak is hard to shake off especially with so many strong opinions around. Luckily, loss of interest due to drug abuse was now official.

I was once a music buff, collecting CDs by the dozens. My love of various modern music styles had me listening to everything from west coast session like Steely Dan to British Punk like the Sex Pistols, from oz pub rock like Cold Chisel to The Beastie Boys, from System of the Down to cult country like Johnny Cash. I even played bass, keyboards, guitar and some drums. If someone had a music question, they came to me. I was a walking encyclopedia of music trivia and facts. But that all changed with heroin and now I never listen to music except for an occasional short burst of enthusiasm.

To loose interest in something that I have loved since I was 5 years old is disheartening but it also raises all sorts of questions about the chemical imbalance in my brain. I obviously could find normal activities fulfilling for most my life but why am I compelled to take opiates now? Wasn’t I fulfilled enough or did something change? My guess (and it is a guess) is that because I have always been a big drinker or a recreational drug user, I was looking for something more than my brain was giving me. I have always been a happy sort of guy but much of my life involved drinking and often drugs. For example, my favourite past time was going to dinner/lunch; good food, great conversation, lots of laughs and plenty of booze (especially red wine). Other favourite events were seeing pub bands(drinking and sometimes drugs), going to the football (sometimes drinking), parties (always drinking and drugs) and at times, all of the above in one weekend binge (lots of drinking and drugs). You probably see the pattern here.

Drug use had probably dulled the brain's ability to find other pleasures. But some people may be predisposed to not enjoy natural pleasures so they sought artificial highs.

The loss of interest doesn’t just affect your recreational time but runs much deeper. For example, I can’t work a full time job anymore. It takes me a few hours each morning to feel semi-normal after I have taken my meds, I need to sleep at least once during the day and my focus is too short for a regular employee. It also affects my social life by being absent from too many family functions. This has caused massive problems with my wife and in-laws who are used to a typical European culture of family events. I mostly don’t even like leaving the house and if I can avoid it, I do. It makes me respect heroin addicts like April Morrison and David who get up every day for work and function as valuable employees.

The High Of Happiness Eludes Drug Users
By Nick Miller
The Age
February 2009

THE sight of happy children or delicious food will usually trigger an instinctive flash of happiness.

But illicit drug users are dulled to these "natural" pleasures, possibly because the drug has warped the brain's reward system, according to world-first Melbourne University research.

The researchers say the study, published yesterday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, has important implications for drug treatment programs. It shows that drug users need help not only to stop but also to find other pastimes to replace the drug "high".

Heroin users were shown images that normally induce a pleasure response, such as pictures of children, sports events, food or peaceful scenery. Electrodes tracked movement of the face and excitement of the brain to measure their automatic response.

Compared to non-addicts, they derived far less pleasure from the images, but got a rush from images of the preparation of heroin and drug paraphernalia. The duller their response to natural pleasure, the more heroin they were likely to use in the next six months.

"This suggests that simply saying 'go to detox' is not useful," said lead researcher Associate Professor Dan Lubman, from the Orygen Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. "To succeed (in ending a drug addiction) we have to value other things, to experience other pleasures. We need to encourage (drug users) to work on making their lives more enriched, to get involved with other activities."

Drug use had probably dulled the brain's ability to find other pleasures. But some people may be predisposed to not enjoy natural pleasures so they sought artificial highs.

Former heroin user Tim said he had never found joy as a child in activities that others enjoyed.

"I found it difficult to join in," he said. "When I took up narcotics, at a very young age, that gave me a licence to participate. I had found something that did bring me pleasure."

After 20 years of addiction, Tim beat the habit. And recently he found a "simple" joy: "I took my son to Lorne and he joined the nippers (junior lifesavers) … It was one of the proudest moments of my life when he came second in the race for the baton."

Saturday, 14 February 2009

CAUTION - Smoking Pot Will Make Your Balls Drop Off

UPDATE: Another article from Paul Armentano of AlterNet reinforces much of this article.

I have seen some fascinating claims about the dangers of smoking dope but this latest report is just too much. According to a new study, marijuana use may increase the risk of developing an extremely aggressive form of testicular cancer. Isn’t anything sacred anymore? But like most scary articles in the media about smoking dope, reality is either missing or obscured amongst the hype.
Given that the incidence of testicular cancer is approximately 1 in 36,266 (SEER estimate 2002) – I don’t find this to be particularly troubling.
-- Steve Robinson. Community Development Coordinator - WA Substance Users Association (WASUA)
The story in the Daily Telegraph titled, Marijuana Raises Testicular Cancer Risk adds “Drug danger: “ to the link for some much needed sensationalism. And it was much needed because in reality the reported 70% increased in risk means almost nothing to most people. Most of the reporting includes the fact that the increase in risk is to an extremely aggressive form of testicular cancer. This should add to the scare factor but 70% of stuff all is still stuff all whether it’s an aggressive form of cancer or not.
Wow, a 70% increase in the chance of getting testicular cancer. I'm glad that typical misreporting of statistics came up. Sounds horrific doesn't it? But look at the facts: 8,000 cases out of 250 million people is 0.000032% of the population. Now add the 70% notional risk factor and you get 0.0000544%. It's so small as to be negligible. Beware all stories that blandly state risk factors in that fashion.
-- Michael Gormly. Kings Cross Times
At first glance, the headline is another testament to how dangerous cannabis can be. But these hysterical stories are getting old. Over the last few years, cannabis has been associated with shrinking brains to gum disease, from lung cancer to psychosis and more. Just recently the headlines screamed that cannabis is more likely to give you lung cancer than tobacco. Major media outlets picked up the story and the anti-drug crusaders were wringing their hands with glee. But it was to be another fizzer when revealed that the findings were wrong. The media had pre-empted the report’s release and took the author’s comments are gospel.
Headlines suggested a study proved pot is a greater cancer risk than tobacco -- but the media didn't even wait for the report to be released. The mainstream press, always on the look out for a good pot scare story, ran blindly with Beasley's remarks. Apparently not a scribe among them felt any need to confirm whether Beasley's study -- which remained embargoed at the same time it was making worldwide headlines -- actually said what was claimed. It didn't.
-- Paul Armentano - AlterNet: Outrageous Anti-Pot Lies: Media Uses Disgraceful Cancer Scare Tactics
Some major media outlets followed suit which is now becoming a common gaff in an effort to break the news. More and more, hysterical, drug related headlines are becoming standard fare for news outlets. Even well respected or high profile media groups are guilty of this drug related sensationalism. Here are some examples of the media who were stung by the lung cancer fiasco. -Experts warn of cannabis cancer 'epidemic' - ABC -Cannabis Bigger Cancer Risk Than Cigarettes - Reuters -Smoking One Joint is Equivalent to 20 Cigarettes, Study Says - Fox News Jeremy Laurance from The Independent writes about the recent myths regarding lung cancer and links to psychosis.
Critics pointed out that most cannabis users give up in their 30s, limiting their long-term exposure, which is a crucial factor in cigarette-induced lung cancer. Two long-term studies of the drug involving more than 100,000 people in total in Sweden and the US found no increase in deaths. Unlike tobacco, cannabis does not contain nicotine and so is not addictive. It was also exonerated as a cause of heart disease by a study which showed no increase in calcium deposits in the coronary arteries of young adult users of the drug, a marker of thickening of the arteries that can lead to heart attacks.
-- Jeremy Laurance - The Independent: The long-term health impact of cannabis is far from clear
Paul Armentano from AlterNet sums it up:
Writing in the journal Science nearly 40 years ago, New York state university sociologist Erich Goode aptly observed: "Tests and experiments purporting to demonstrate the ravages of marijuana consumption receive enormous attention from the media, and their findings become accepted as fact by the public. But when careful refutations of such research are published, or when latter findings contradict the original pathological findings, they tend to be ignored or dismissed."
The Article:
Marijuana May Raise Testicular Cancer Risk
The Daily Telegraph
February 2009

MARIJUANA use may increase the risk of developing an extremely aggressive form testicular cancer, scientists have said in a study published this week.

A study of 369 American men aged between 18 to 44 with testicular cancer and 979 men in the same age bracket without the disease found that current marijuana users were 70 percent more likely to develop it compared to nonusers.

The researchers reported in the journal Cancer that the risk appeared to be highest among men who have been smoking marijuana for at least 10 years, used it more than once a week or started using it before age 18.

One of the researchers, Stephen Schwartz from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle said it was the first study to explore possible links between marijuana and testicular cancer.

“This is the first study to look at this question, and by itself is not definitive,” Dr Schwartz said.

“And there's a lot more research that would have to be done in order to be more confident that marijuana use really is important in a man's risk of developing testicular cancer.”

The study found the increased risk appeared to be in the form called nonseminoma testicular cancer.

It accounts for 40 percent of cases and can be more aggressive and more difficult to treat, Dr Schwartz said.

Experts are unsure about the causes of testicular cancer, which often strikes men in their 20s and 30s.

The disease is seen more commonly in men who have had an undescended testicle or have a family history of testicular cancer.

The researchers said they were not sure what it was about marijuana that may raise the risk.

Chronic marijuana use also can have effects on the male reproductive system including decreased sperm quality, they said.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Top Drug Advisor - Ecstasy is Safe as Riding a Horse

With the current hysteria over ecstasy in the MSM, it is refreshing to see some balanced opinion filter through. Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in the UK has put some perspective on the much touted dangers of ecstasy(MDMA). It may seem hard to believe that the head of the UK’s peak body on illicit drugs has actually told the truth about ecstasy blowing apart the usual doomsday rhetoric.

Taking the drug ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse
-Professor David Nutt, chairman of the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)
MDMA was first produced about 100 years ago but it wasn’t examined for it’s potential until the 1960s. It took another 10 years before it’s promising future was realised when a Californian psychotherapist postponed retirement to study it and started introducing it to therapists in Europe and America. In 1985, the DEA stepped in and banned it after it started making the rounds the dance club scene. Without any investigation into whether MDMA was being used for research, an emergency classification was made to have it classed as a Schedule 1 drug - the most restrictive category for drugs with “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use”.

benefits of MDMA for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been known since the 1970s but with the worldwide restrictions and patent issues, many projects don’t get past phase II trials. MDMA has also been shown to alleviate some side effects of Parkinson’s disease treatment but again restrictions have buried any future trials. Research does continue though albeit slowly.

With many positive results for treating PTSD, SA Democrat Sandra Kanck
suggested that MDMA could be beneficial for survivors of the Eyre Peninsula bush fires in 2006. She was ridiculed by the SA government, anti-drug groups and the media, then called into explain her actions to party leaders. Again in 2008, Sandra suggested a trial of MDMA for war veterans with PTSD after trials in the U.S. and Israel had shown "excellent results". What followed was a disgraceful and abominable response from several politicians. The execrable, SA Veterans Affairs minister, Michael Atkinson said the Government would "not be supporting Sandra Kanck's latest rave" and "Vietnam Veterans are not laboratory mice for a left-wing social experiment". Has drug hysteria reached the point where legitimate drugs are only accepted for treating the ill according to how politicians perceive them? So much for our so called advanced society.

What about recreational use? Why is MDMA in the same class as heroin? Are the risks of MDMA so bad that users should be hunted down as criminals? Why is so much effort put into catching occasional MDMA users? The argument about the dangers is no longer valid so maybe we should be questioning the motives of those who oppose MDMA so aggressively.

The long term effects of MDMA are still not fully known but there has been plenty of research suggesting there is nothing especially dangerous about it. The short term effects are a different matter. Although MDMA receives much bad publicity in the media and from anti-drug campaigns, the actual harms are generally small. Like any drug, heavy abuse of MDMA is not going to be good for you but in moderation there is very little evidence of any harm at all to the general population. A few years ago, The British Home Office, concluded that consuming MDMA is safer than travelling on commercial airliners. This probably explains why millions of people take MDMA every week without a problem.

According to a
study published in a medical journal, The Lancet, MDMA is not even in the top 10 most dangerous drugs. The study had addiction experts, psychiatrists, police and legal professionals with scientific or medical expertise assigned a rating to a list of 20 drugs. The three factors were:

⁃ Physical harm to the user

⁃ Addictive potential of the drug

⁃ The drug's overall impact on society

Ecstasy or MDMA was rated at number 18 out of 20.

Statistically, more people die from bee stings than MDMA use. The main cause of death associated with ecstasy use is from external factors like overheating and dehydration, contaminates/substituted chemicals and combining other drugs especially alcohol. MDMA in it’s pure form has very little danger if taken in moderation. Under prohibition, ecstasy is often cut or the MDMA is replaced with another drug in an effort to increase profits for illegal drug manufacturers and dealers. Without knowing what’s in the ecstasy pills, the potential harms increase significantly. This is the real danger of ecstasy use today - not MDMA but the lack of it.

SA Democrat, Sandra Kanck, again put her head on the chopping block and recommended pill testing at raves but she was heavily criticised by SA independent, Anne Bressington and other self righteous pollies. Some groups were already providing pill testing services at raves but were then threatened with legal action by police. The pragmatic approach of pill testing by medical professionals was rejected for “sending the wrong message” and these groups reluctantly resorted to providing cheap testing kits. Surprisingly, this was also condemned by the government but it was out of their hands legally. Unfortunately the government’s rejection stopped another important aim of pill testing programs by allowing drug and alcohol professionals having face time with active users. Again it seemed that “sending the right message” was more important than people’s lives.

We saw more bungling with the death of Gemma Thoms last week at the Big Day Out in Perth. In a panic about being caught by police sniffer dogs, Gemma swallowed her day’s supply of ecstasy. A NSW report in 2006 warned of this very situation but had been ignored by police in all states. To top it off, WA police tried to
squirm around the blame by down playing the actual positioning of the sniffer dogs. Even the WA premier, Colin Barnett tried to dodge any blame and incredibly gave a "drugs are bad" lecture. A horrible case of public scare tactics and drug hysteria going horribly wrong.

Ecstasy 'Not Worse Than Riding'

Taking the drug ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse, a senior advisor has suggested.

Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), outlined his view in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
The council, which advises the government, is expected next week to recommend that ecstasy is downgraded from a class A drug to a class B one.

Ministers have outlined their opposition to any such move.

Professor Nutt wrote: "Drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life. There is not much difference between horse-riding and ecstasy."

Organ failure
The professor said horse-riding accounted for more than 100 deaths a year, and went on: "This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates - indeed encourages - certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others such as drug use."

Ecstasy use is linked to around 30 deaths a year, up from 10 a year in the early 1990s. Fatalities are caused by massive organ failure from overheating or the effects of drinking too much water.

The ACMD last night distanced itself from Prof Nutt's comments.

A spokesman for the body said: "The recent article by Professor David Nutt published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology was done in respect of his academic work and not as chair of the ACMD.

"Professor Nutt's academic work does not prejudice that which he conducts as chair of the ACMD."

'No safe dose'
David Raynes, of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, told the Daily Telegraph: "He is entitled to his personal opinion, but if his personal view conflicts so very strongly with his public duties, it would be honourable to consider his position.

"If he does not, the home secretary should do it for him."

Last September a Home Office spokesman said the government believed ecstasy should remain a Class A drug.

"Ecstasy can and does kill unpredictably. There is no such thing as a 'safe dose'," he said.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Did They Really Say That? Part 3 - The Religious Right

This is the third and final part in the series that puts the spotlight on some of the most remarkable comments aimed at brutalising drug policy in Australia.

Drug addiction is a sin
-Brian Watters. Salvation Army
Maybe we need to clear up the two arguments from religious groups. The first argument is that religion is meant to be compassionate and based on loving your fellow human regardless of their actions. Ideals like “love thy neighbour”, “turn the other cheek” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are the core of a better world. The teachings of Jesus are mostly taken into account as practical methods for living a more Christian life. To these Christians, drug addicts need help via practical and compassionate treatment that maintain their dignity as people and to keep them safe. They are mostly supporters of harm minimisation and consider the problem a medical issue.

At the other end is the religious right who have reshaped Christianity to suit the modern evangelist or moral crusader. The focus is self improvement, conservative ideology and a return to the 1950s style, nuclear family. There is no room for druggies, gays and liberals. This is a new era of born again Christians who are active in politics, social commentary and government lobbying. In their quest to make the world more Christian like, religious fundamentals like humility and benevolence are overlooked. Fundraisers for the poor are replaced with large venue religotainment where you can experience on stage miracles like faith healing, participate in pray-a-longs for a better life and enjoy words of wisdom. The donation plate is passed around constantly and sales of DVDs, books etc. raise plenty of money for the church involved but how much of it goes to charitable purposes is debatable. Flamboyant and wealthy pastors are not questioned about amassing small fortunes or inciting hatred against non Christians but are looked up to as the strong, warriors of God. Muslims are evil and atheists are soulless. Programs for helping the community are replaced with self improvement classes for managing your money or losing weight and it is no longer necessary to keep your faith private. These Christians have joined the culture wars and they’re in it to win. In contrast to the first mentioned Christians, drug addicts need discipline and tough love. To help with their obdurate cause, they embrace a Zero Tolerance policy with tough police action. In their quest for a drug free world, abstinence is king and Harm Minimisation perverts the weak. Just like the Catholic Church’s view on condoms, adhering to their interpreted message from God is more important than actually saving lives.

"Christ came to make people whole, yet the total abstinence message is the truth that some Christians do not want to hear!"
-Graeme Rule. Director - Drug Free Australia (DFA)
The onset of evangelism in Australia has seen a new breed of political active Christians in the area of illicit drugs. Like all extremists, the religious right make some extraordinary comments combining the rejection of medical knowledge, cherry picked junk science, religion and moral panic. This gives them enormous scope to basically say what they want under the cover of religion and morality.

By offering addicts clean syringes, injecting rooms and alternative legal drugs, which maintain self centered and destructive behaviors for addicts, is part of the current nihilistic and consumer culture, which is opposed to Christian principles.
-Drug Advisory Council of Australia Inc.
Harm Minimisation
The line between Christian principles and conservative values are becoming increasingly blurred and we are seeing a cosy relationship between the religious right, politicians and the MSM. The big loser is society and the people they are suppose to be helping. The current policy of Harm Minimisation is projected by the religious right as unchristian, immoral and a failure although it is heralded by the experts as the best solution we currently have. Incidentally, Harm Minimisation is not properly implemented yet and is still biased towards law and order. Disapproval of Harm Minimisation means that science, reality and facts are the enemies of the religious right. For example, a quote from evangelist, Bill Mulleunberg states that Harm Prevention is the only proven drug policy. This is scientifically wrong, unworkable in reality and not a fact but a lie.

The question is, how many more people have to die before we reject the foolishness of these harm minimisation advocates, and their mistaken belief that illicit drug use is just a health issue, and not also a criminal justice issue?
Instead of seeking harm prevention - the only proven drug policy - and a zero tolerance approach to drug use, they recklessly continue pushing the line that people will always take drugs, so we must try to make it “safer” when they do. This is not only a counsel of surrender, but it is costing people their lives.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
In an attempt to discredit Harm Minimisation, there have been some cracker comments that just completely ignore the facts. By cherry picking research, they can produce “sound byte” statements that might be effective in the media but are only disingenuous attempts to trick the public.

It is clear that stricter laws reduce drug experimentation
-Craig Thompson. Drug Free Australia (DFA)
While much of the western world is entrenched in basic Harm Minimisation programs, other countries such as Sweden and the US are used as examples of where Zero Tolerance is working. The problem is that it’s not true. The US has more people in jail than any other country, spends $69 billion per year addressing their problem yet has the highest drug use rate on the planet. You wouldn’t think this is true considering some of the bizarre statements from the religious right.

Given that the US is making better headway than Australia, in both binge drinking and illicit drug use among its young people, we should be looking more closely at what is working there
-Jo Baxter. Executive Officer - Drug Free Australia (DFA)
I always thought that lying was considered a sin and not part of Christian values but the religious right include it in their arsenal of propaganda weapons to fight Harm Minimisation.

Free needle programs have not stopped the spread of deadly, incurable disease. Hepatitis C infection is soaring among Australian drug users. Free needles encourage more drug use, just as free injecting rooms would do. Young people assume that heroin cannot be such a dangerous drug if State governments distribute free needles to inject it, provide legal injecting rooms and support heroin trials to supply free heroin to addicts.
-Rev Fred Nile, MLC, of the Christian Democratic Party. NSW
The lengths they go to trying to discredit Harm Minimisation is incredible. Ex magistrate and DFA member, Craig Thompson is often seen as the credible face of Drug Free Australia (DFA) but if you read what he says carefully, you might be fooled into thinking it’s actually satire laced with juicy conspiracy theories.

Needles to addicts, marijuana as medicine, industrial hemp, responsible drug use education, and softening drug law enforcement are "harm reduction” policies.  Isn't "harm reduction" really the old failed "responsible use" policy that got us into all this trouble in the first place?   It does not seek to "prevent" harm, or to "cure" harm.  It seeks to "reduce" harm – to the user and dealer – at the expense of society.
-Craig Thompson. Drug Free Australia (DFA)

What is the force behind "harm reduction?" . . .   Could it be power, politics and money?
-Craig Thompson. Drug Free Australia (DFA)

The new "harm minimisation" doctrine claims that drug abstinence is not possible and "safe use" is the way to go.
-Festival of Light article
The main targets for opposing Harm Minimisation strategies are needle exchanges and the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC). Clearly a success, there has been many attempts to find a loophole for raising controversy. My favourite is from Gary Christian:

High overdose rates at the centre were due to drug users experimenting with higher doses, knowing nurses would be on hand to help them
-Gary Christian. Honorary Secretary - Drug Free Australia (DFA)
I laughed for about an hour when I first read this. Apparently an MSIC client admitted he did this but believe me when I tell you, overdosing is not fun. This is the single most absurd theory I have ever heard. It did though bring to mind, our friends, The Festival of Light who made this comment about Gays some years back.

Ironically, in spite of these costly programs, the success of the very expensive multi-drug treatment for AIDS has weakened the motivation of homosexual men to practise "safe" sex.
-Festival of Light
Maybe not as exact as Gary’s claim but just as delightful was this from DACA inc.

Injecting rooms will allow evil to flourish and prosper as addicts buy drugs for use in the injecting rooms.
-Drug Advisory Council of Australia Inc.
DACA inc. (not a government council at all but a private corporation) also answered the biggest question, are drugs evil?

Drugs are evil
-Drug Advisory Council of Australia Inc.
David Noffs, son of the late Rev Ted Noffs who founded the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, and developer of drug prevention programs in Australia and overseas, said this:

This (harm minimisation) approach to the drug problem became federal and state policy about 15 years ago. It (claims) drug use is inevitable and should somehow be managed. Is it any wonder that drug use has escalated among young people in Australia to the point where it is four times that of the US (and over five times that of Sweden)? In the Netherlands, a noted harm minimisation country, the drug problem is out of control. Why is it then that Australia persists with a drug policy that is a public health disaster? ...It is time to pull the plug!
-David Noffs, President Life Education Centers International, Founding President Drug Watch International
Somewhat confused about his statistics? You should be. The drug problem in the Netherlands is out of control? Drug use amongst the young in Australia is four times that of the US? - Pffft. These statements are simply lies which must raise concerns about the ethics of these so called "Christians". It is standard procedure to attack the Netherlands because of their cannabis cafes and liberal laws on prostitution. The US has lied about the Netherlands for years including one US Drug Czar saying “you can't walk down the street in Amsterdam without tripping over junkies." The most publicised lie was the statistical bungle by Clinton’s Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey who pointed out the Dutch had a much higher murder rate because of liberal drug policies. Of course he was wrong as McCaffrey had included attempted murders in the Dutch results which meant that the US had a 400% higher murder rate per capita.

The city of Amsterdam is awash with drugs and crime. Indeed, drug-related crime is four times the rate of the US. You can’t walk down a street of central Amsterdam without being accosted by drug pushers and addicts. I lost count of how many times our push bikes were stolen by the druggies to help support their habits. I don’t want that cesspool of crime, drugs and violence to be replicated here.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
The fact is, the Netherlands rate of cannabis use is fairly much in line with neighbouring European countries except in the younger age groups where it is lower. It is also much lower than Australia, the UK and the US. Hard drug use is lower than the European average and significantly lower than Australia, the UK and the US. Recent reports that the Dutch are reversing their pragmatic approach to cannabis use have sent the anti-drug zealots into a frenzy. The “coffee houses” faced a few issues with the banning of tobacco smoking indoors, border towns attracting “drug tourists” from neighbouring countries and some premises being too close to schools. The final result though, is that not much has happened at all. The truth has never stopped the religious right before from creating fanciful stories.

In Holland, where marijuana is openly sold in “coffee houses,” drug addiction has become a massive problem - so much so that Dutch authorities are now having a rethink. They are now clamping down on a problem which is getting out of control. Acknowledging that drug-related offences and links with organised crime are on the rise, the Dutch Government will drastically cut the amount of cannabis that can be sold in the coffee houses, and more jail cells will be built.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
and this

Is it a fact that Holland has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the world because of its relaxed drug laws?
-Rev Fred Nile, MLC, of the Christian Democratic Party. NSW
To the religious right, Harm Minimisation is not just about drugs but an undesirable lifestyle. The links between moral decay, crime, homosexuals, HIV/AIDS, broken families and drugs is a common theme for the religious right and they never miss an opportunity to tie in these evils together. For them, it’s simply a moral issue.

Obituary statistics reveal that the homosexual lifestyle is violence and accident prone. This may be partly a result of the high incidence of drug abuse. A survey of Australian male homosexuals published by the National Centre in HIV Social Research in 1998, found that "recreational drug use is high among homosexually active men by comparison with the general population. Particular drugs, especially the so-called `party drugs', are used by a sizable percentage of homosexually active men
-Homosexual parenting - the effect on children by Mrs Roslyn Phillips, BSc, DipEd and Dr David Phillips, BSc, PhD, ThA. (Australian Festival of Light )

At bottom, the drug problem is not so much a legal problem as a moral and cultural problem. To throw up our hands and give up our young people to the scourge of drugs is a sign of moral irresponsibility.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

It was then that I realised Peter was sneaking rock CDs into our home. They were Pantera, Metallica, 2PAC, Cyprus Hill, Korn, Eminem and many more - all with extremely violent lyrics. They promoted marijuana and other drug use, suicide, murder, racial hatred and violence, rape and rebellion against authority. Peter would hide the CDs in his bedroom. I found his hiding place, and confiscated them. I made him give them back to his mates.
-Festival of Light article - When love is not enough
The laughable logic often used by the religious right is similar to primary school standards. A prime example is the over zealous, Bill Mulleunberg who is often seen using comparisons that is similar to comparing apples with rotary engines.

They want to supply heroin to addicts. That’s about as helpful as supplying whiskey to alcoholics. This will simply create life-long addicts. We don’t want to help these people. We want to keep them strung out for life. Such a policy is morally bankrupt and socially disastrous.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

Incredible! To see how irresponsible and inane such comments are, just substitute the word rape or murder for the phrase psychoactive substances. People will always rape (or run red lights, or avoid paying taxes, etc.). It is foolish to think we can fully eradicate the problem. So let’s try to minimise the whole problem. This is putting up the white flag of surrender, and condemning many to an early grave.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

Nor should we abandon moral principles simply because in an imperfect world not everyone lives up to such ideals. It would be great to pass a law that banished all murder or alcohol-related road deaths. This we cannot do. But we nonetheless pass laws that deter murder and drink driving by making them illegal. To argue that such laws be abolished because they are frequently violated is foolish in the extreme.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

In the article Wodak is reported to have said that the legalised product would come in packets that “warn against its effects”. Hey, thanks for that. And when we sell the Uzis and other firearms, we will also have the appropriate warnings attached as well. How thoughtful. And when the child porn mags are freely available in the POs, we will fulfill our civic responsibilities by including a suitable warning.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

To say that we should legalise drug use because so many are violating the law is like saying since so many people are killing and raping, perhaps we should legalise these crimes as well.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

Right now criminals and corrupt police have a monopoly on selling illegal firearms, heroin, and a whole range of proscribed items.

But by the logic of Dr Wodak, it would be the sensible thing to legalise the sale of submachine guns, and have them sold through the post offices. Or allow heroin to be freely sold, allowing addicts to pick up a batch at the nearest PO. While we are at it, maybe some child pornography and some African elephant tusks could also be conveniently made available this way.

After all, we want to take these things out of hands of the crims, don’t we?
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
One of the funniest arguments is that Zero Tolerance is compassionate compared to Harm Minimisation. The religious right argue that sending drug users to jail is a form of intervention that saves them from the evils of continuing drug use. We all know prisons are drug free. The line between addiction and recreational use is removed and all drugs are lumped into one category ... evil.

It is time the dangerous and failed ideology of the harm minimisation crowd is replaced with some realism which is genuinely compassionate and responsible.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus gives witness to the way a Christian should behave towards those who are addicted, bringing them to full health with love and kindness even to the point of inconvenience and personal cost.
-Drug Advisory Council of Australia Inc.
David Noffs has the last word on Harm Minimisation.

"I think all the public health officials who have condoned needle exchange programs should be held accountable for those poor souls who trusted them and died anyway!"
-David Noffs, President Life Education Centers International, Founding President Drug Watch International


Only coma and death are left for the cannabis smoker
-Herschel Mills Baker. Director - Drug Free Australia (DFA)
Apart from Harm Minimisation, the most argued about topic is cannabis. If you thought the wacky quotes on Harm Minimisation from the religious right were funny, you’re in for a treat.

Psychosis can occur after only one or two joints. Sex organs and unborn babies can be damaged too
-Churchill Fellow and former teacher Mrs Elaine Walters
Recently, some sections of the religious right have attempted to use science as a tool to bolster their support. It is the very weapon that has been used against them to squash their silly, non scientific moral based arguments. The problem is that science is about the truth and no amount of cherry picking data or junk science can change the facts. It’s probably not surprising considering the religious right cited science as the foundation of Intelligent Design(creationism) in their attempt to undermine evolution. Suddenly there were regular reports of cannabis causing everything from psychosis to shrinking brains. Statistical witch hunts and junk science became media headlines and fuel for a new wave of anti-cannabis crusaders.

An adolescent who uses marijuana goes to his doctor with symptoms of depression, and is prescribed medication. A few days later, he dies. It is assumed to be a case of youth suicide by overdose - the cause of death is found to be very high levels of anti-depressant medication. But he took his medicine exactly as prescribed. The combination of marijuana plus the medication killed him.
Dr John Anderson. Psycho-Physiologist. Speaking at a drug forum in Sydney on 19 June, 1999 commissioned by Brian Watters to counter previous and future drug forums that opposed his own personal views.
Whether their research was right or not, the religious right were prepared to make some remarkable claims.

Since cannabis use is shown to be even more dangerous than tobacco use, for example, that should be a strong part of why the believer should just say no, instead of buying into the legalisation crowd’s agenda.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

You simply are in denial about the 10,000 plus studies on the overwhelming harm caused by cannabis. The evidence alone should settle the matter here, not some libertarian ideology.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
Even the oldest argument of them all, that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs was re-risen from the dead after being disproved long ago.

...They start with alcohol and marijuana, but most of them end up on cocaine and heroin. I have seen 18 year old girls and by the time they are 19 they are like a spinned out washing machine...
-(Festival of Light article) Linda Coyle, the Perth madam who left the prostitution trade and became a Christian in 1997.

Those of us who have worked in the field for many years know that marijuana is a 'gateway drug'
-Brian Watters. Salvation Army

Lest it be argued that it is mainly hard drugs that are associated with criminal activities, bear in mind that almost all people enter the world of hard drugs via the door of “soft” ones like marijuana. This is the overwhelming testimony of those working with drug addicts.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

And as I argued in the linked article, marijuana is a gateway drug which leads to harder drugs. This is a near universal experience of marijuana users. It was certainly true of me and my friends, and is quite common. Very few grass users just stay on grass.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
The strangest “fact” to arise was the claim that today’s cannabis is much more potent and therefore more dangerous than previously. Apart from ignoring the potency of hash (cannabis resin) that was common in the 1960s to the 1990s, they overlook one major flaw in their argument. Better quality cannabis meant less intake which probably decreased the harms through smoking less. Would a drinker who normally has 6 bottles of beer in one evening still have 6 bottles of whisky if the beer was not available? Of course not, they would consume less to reach the required effect. Is it a coincidence that low tar cigarettes were attacked by these same people as a trick? They argued that a nicotine addicted person would adjust their intake to meet their nicotine requirements. In other words, they would smoke more light cigarettes or less heavy cigarettes to suit their normal intake needs. Amazingly, this was overlooked when it comes to marijuana because cannabis smokers are just mindless, crazy junkies who will take whatever is put before them. The potency issue remains one of the key arguments for the cannabis crusaders.

Marijuana is very potent and very dangerous stuff. It is a far cry from the mild stuff us hippies in the 60s used to toke on. It is many times more powerful, and extremely dangerous. It is much stronger because of higher THC levels (the “high” producing element of cannabis). With increased potency comes increased health risks.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch

These reports indicate a disturbing level of misinformation about the dangers of cannabis among health personnel at the highest levels. Some of the misinformation may be due to the high level of marijuana experimentation by university students and others in the “swinging sixties”. Some of these former students may be professional researchers, counsellors and doctors these days, and may not realise that the “pot” they smoked in their younger days had perhaps only 10% of the THC content of the cannabis for sale in today’s market. They may also still be occasional users of the drug.
-Mrs Roslyn Phillips. Festival of Light
So what Roslyn Phillips has revealed is that those who took this very dangerous drug, cannabis when students, are all now professional researchers, counsellors and doctors etc. Oops. Thanks Roslyn for clearing up the consequences of casually smoking dope!

Fear is an underlying strategy of the religious right. Cooked up theories and propaganda hiding behind religion gives legitimacy to their attempts at tricking the public. Scare tactics are common practice for the anti-drug nutters but having God on your side somehow makes it okay.

Witness after witness mentioned SA's big marijuana problem since growing ten plants was "decriminalised" in 1987. Some MPs from other states were disbelieving when a parent said it seemed "every second house" in Adelaide grows "dope" in the backyard. However Ann Bressington (left) of DrugBeat testified that in her area, "when you walk down the street of a night, you can smell the marijuana in the air."

"I work with police here, and they tell me that 90% of drug-related crimes - including violent home invasions and break-ins - are linked to marijuana. Only 10% are heroin-related," Bressington said.
-Festival of Light article

All of this clearly points to the fact that cannabis should be considered at least as serious as other ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin or methamphetamines.
-Craig Thompson. Drug Free Australia (DFA)

God Said Drugs Are Bad

Heroin addiction is a fate worse then death
-Brian Watters. Salvation Army
When it comes to 21st century medicine, the religious right are a mixed up lot. They are not afraid to take advantage of the many scientific advances unless it involves breaching their ideology. Women’s health, HIV/AIDS prevention, stem cell research and drug treatment are some issues that can be more important than people’s lives. It may just be that other people’s suffering is vastly different than it happening to themselves. It brings to mind the term, “collateral damage”. Surely those suffering aren’t that selfish that they can’t see the bigger plan?

The addicts in their iniquitous soul-destroying world of substance abuse don't understand the love and hope we have invested in them.
-Brian Watters. Salvation Army
Although the religious right often clash with science, they are not afraid to use their own special brand of research to prove their point. Like all good anti-drug moralists, they cherry pick their data to form an argument that washes well with an uninformed and emotional public. Harm Minimisation is a radical change to traditional treatments that have relied on years of public misinformation to appear appropriate. Luckily Harm Minimisation is very successful and slowly the public realise the benefits although groups like the religious right try their hardest to discredit it.

The drug lobby is playing a terrible hoax on the Australian people. In 1985 they pushed for misnamed `needle exchanges' - which are really needle giveaways. When heroin addicts inject and are `out of their minds', they dump their used needles wherever they happen to be - in parks or on the beach, where innocent people can receive deadly injuries.
-Rev Fred Nile, MLC, of the Christian Democratic Party. NSW
Some strategies include obvious lies.

The NSW government has now legalised possession of one gram of heroin - enough for 20 shots. Weak politicians have thus torpedoed the police campaign against drug dealers.
-Rev Fred Nile, MLC, of the Christian Democratic Party. NSW
Some strategies include bizarre statements.

If someone could prove to me that having supervised injecting rooms saves lives, I'd be the first to support them. But the evidence shows otherwise.
-Brian Watters. Salvation Army
Some strategies include good old Christian values.

How do we achieve this? Through research, and service delivery to our valued clients. We aim for a holistic service that includes good medicine, counselling, Christian teaching, housing, 12 step recovery program and other possible support from local church community networks.
-Dr George O’Neil - Fresh Start Recovery
Some strategies include outrageous claims like alcohol prohibition was a success.

It [alcohol prohibition] was the most lawful period in US history
-Brian Watters. Salvation Army

Wodak also brings up the issue of Prohibition in America to justify this lunacy. Please allow me a few inconvenient truths here: During this period, consumption of alcohol declined substantially, as did the cirrhosis death rate for men (cut by two-thirds between 1911 and 1929), and arrests for public drunkenness dropped 50 per cent between 1919 and 1922.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
Of course, the real agenda behind the anti-drug crusade from the religious right is Christian morality. Like most issues that irk them, society must take a back seat to their beliefs. By making drug use a moral issue, it gives them some control and a public voice including the ear of the government. Faith based programs are less successful than treatments based on Harm Minimisation which in the end, is hard to argue with. This is where God, morality and Christian values becomes essential to their argument.

And it still baffles me as to why any believer should seek to argue for the legalisation of illicit drugs. Why do believers want to go down that road? What biblical rationale is there for doing such things?
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
Their message is simple - drugs are bad. People who take drugs are bad. They do not care about what’s best for addicts or if alcohol is far more dangerous than moderate drug use. It’s not the point. Drug use is associated with evil,

Our goal should be to deliver people from the oppression of the devil, not keep them enslaved to it.
The good news of the Kingdom of God is that people can be set free and given a new life. Injecting rooms do not do this. Thus they are neither Christian nor compassionate.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
Maybe drug users are possessed.

Any police officer will tell you that a person on drugs will be more likely to neglect a child, abuse a spouse or take a life. It’s not just that people do bad things to get drugs; drugs make them do bad thing.
-Bill Mulleunberg. CultureWatch
In the end, according to the religious right, drug users have a simple choice. Turn to God for salvation.

A lot of damaged women and men in Adelaide tonight, are taking drugs to hide their hurt. If they are listening, I have a message from God for them. He says He loves you very much. He wants to save you from all the mess and pain in your life.
-Mrs Roslyn Phillips. Festival of Light

Did They Really Say That?
Part 1 - The Media
Did They Really Say That?
Part 2 - Politicians

For an in depth look at the religious right in Australia and their influence on drug policy, read the articles below from Firesnake.
Australias Religious Right:
Part 1
Australias Religious Right:
Part 2
Australias Religious Right:
Part 3