Our thanks for the following three articles sent to us from Al Arsenault, retired VPD officer and crusader for real treatment of addictions.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
“I was in an awful condition,” said Ali, describing 12 years of addiction to opium and alcohol. “I reached a state that I smashed our furniture and threw our television out of the window.”
Ali, 31, who has a wife and child and identified himself by only his first name to avoid possible embarrassment to his family, is among more than 800 addicts struggling to overcome their habits at a free treatment center in central Tehran.
More than a million Iranians are addicted to some form of opium, heroin or other opium derivative, according to the government, and some estimates run as high as 10 million.
In a country where the discussion of some social and cultural issues, like homosexuality, can be all but taboo, drug addiction has been widely acknowledged as a serious problem. It is talked about openly in schools and on television. Posters have encouraged people to think of addiction as a disease and to seek treatment.
Iran’s theocratic government has encouraged and financed a vast expansion in the number of drug treatment centers to help users confront their addictions and to combat the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, through shared needles.
The center in central Tehran, which is called Congress 60 and is run by a private nonprofit agency, is one of 600 centers that provide drug treatment across the country with help from government money. An additional 1,250 centers offer methadone, free needles and other services for addicts who are not ready to quit, including food and treatment for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted infections.
Iran’s government, trying to curb addiction’s huge social costs, has been more supportive of drug treatment than any other government in the Islamic world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
It was not always this way. After the 1979 revolution, the government tried a more traditional approach: arresting drug users and putting them in jail.
But two decades later, it recognized that this approach had failed. A sharp increase in the crime rate and the number of people infected with H.I.V., both directly linked to a surge in narcotics use, persuaded the government to shift strategies.
“We have realized that an addict is a social reality,” said Muhammad-Reza Jahani, the vice president for the Committee Combating Drugs, which coordinates the government’s efforts to fight drug addiction and trafficking. “We don’t want to fight addicts; we want to fight addiction. We need to manage addiction.”
No one knows for certain just how widespread addiction is. The official estimate is 1.1 million people, according to Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, the leader of the security forces. Mr. Moghadam has banned the use of any other statistics on addiction, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.
But some experts put the number much higher. At a conference on addiction in 2005, Ahmad Kavand, an official in the Interior Ministry, put the number of addicts at 10 million, or about one in every seven people in Iran, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
Southern Tehran has neighborhoods where homeless addicts can readily be found sleeping in parks or openly injecting drugs. The smell of opium in residential neighborhoods, even in affluent areas, is common.
Opium has deep cultural roots in Iran. It has long been considered an effective painkiller, and its use is socially acceptable. Many addicts start by smoking opium occasionally, and move on to heroin and other opium-based narcotics after becoming dependent.
In many cities, a bride brings the equipment for smoking opium as part of her dowry. Before the 1979 revolution, the government gave opium to addicts to enable them to avoid drug dealers.
“Opium in our culture is like Champagne in France,” said Dr. Ali Alavi, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “Many use it for entertainment.”
Drug abuse is even more common outside Tehran and other large cities, particularly in the provinces along the drug-trafficking routes that run from Iran’s long eastern border with Afghanistan, where opium poppies are grown, to the northwest, where it is transported to Turkey and Europe.
More than 93 percent of the opium produced for the world’s illicit narcotics markets comes from Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Iran is the main trafficking route for nearly 60 percent of the opium grown in Afghanistan.
With opium production skyrocketing in Afghanistan, some Iranian officials accuse the American military of ignoring poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, even though it is a major source of revenue for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
“We think the Americans want to keep this source of infection near us,” said Mr. Jahani, the Iranian antidrug official. “Because of the animosity between Iran and the U.S., this is the best way to keep our resources and forces occupied.
Posted by David Berner at 8:07 PM
Insite status quo feeds 'living dead'
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
To the editor:
Re: "Health Minister cites VPD cop in Insite attack," June 27.
As a former resident, parent and non-profit organizer in Strathcona, it's time to
speak my feelings regarding Insite, which I'm sure will not be popular.
If it is true that addictions are an illness and treated as such and if it is true
that "supervised" injection sites are part of "harm reduction," then Insite
belongs in a medical facility and needs to be part of the process of recovery.
I initiated a non-profit organization dedicated to self-employment, which opened
the first new business on Hastings between Gore and Cambie a few years ago. I
was a resident of Strathcona, my daughter was raised in the community. From
my perspective, institutions such as Insite enable individuals to continue their
dysfunctional lives, provide make-work projects for the power barons who run
conglomerate non-profit organizations and continue to foster the attitude that
illness, abuse and horror is normalized.
I have no way of knowing whether the "scientific" research provided by
supporters of Insite is accurate or skewed. That being said, if Insite is
contributing to lessening the spread of disease and keeping individuals alive, it
belongs in a medical facility such as St. Paul's wherein people who use such a
facility are strongly encouraged to leave their community to receive treatment
as cancer patients are required to do. I feel the same way regarding the NAOMI
trials, which disperses free heroin to addicts.
The Downtown Eastside faces incredible challenges in the next two years, with
$1 million condos embedded amidst even more social housing for the "hard to
house." If there is any plan related to that neighbourhood, one is mystified in
trying to understand what that plan is.
For the life of me, having lived in that 'hood, I see no evidence of any "harm"
being "reduced" in the neighbourhood. The living dead in front of Insite is just
one more "going nowhere" testament to the salaries of the individuals who run
the various organizations dedicated to keeping the status quo in the
Perhaps Insite should continue, but addicts need to understand that, if they are
to be granted a sanctuary to continue their deathwish, then such a "right"
comes with obligations. Their obligation to keep such a place open would be to
leave their community to receive treatment (and it should be considered
treatment), realize that usage of such a service is part of their commitment to
Print Story - canada.com network 7/9/08 9:12 PM
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=6f8eb05d-676f-4691-a8d5-a5d507912d68&sponsor= Page 2 of 2
reevaluate their lives and consider treatment. Otherwise, Insite is an unsightly
and dangerous experiment in enabling the living dead. The people outside the
facility may be animated, but who would call that "living?"
© Vancouver Courier 2008
Posted by David Berner at 8:04 PM
Prescription drug abuse set to exceed use of illicit narcotics globally
Already outstripped traditional illegal drugs in parts of Europe, Africa
and South Asia: report Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 8:13
PM ET The Associated Press
Abuse of prescription drugs is about to exceed the use of illicit street
narcotics worldwide - and the shift has spawned a lethal new trade in
counterfeit painkillers, sedatives and other medicines potent enough to
kill, a global watchdog warned Wednesday.
Already, prescription drug abuse has outstripped traditional illegal
drugs such as heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy in parts of Europe, Africa and
South Asia, the UN-affiliated International Narcotics Control Board said
in its annual report for 2006.
In the United States alone, the abuse of painkillers, stimulants,
tranquilizers and other prescription medications has gone beyond
"practically all illicit drugs with the exception of cannabis," with
users increasingly turning to them first, the Vienna-based group said.
And unregulated markets in many countries make it easy for traffickers
to peddle a wide variety of counterfeit drugs through courier services,
ordinary mail and the internet.
"Gains over the past years in international drug control may be
seriously undermined by this ominous development if it remains
unchecked," INCB president Philip Emafo said.
Discount medications that seem to be authentic often turn out to be
cheap but powerful knockoffs concocted from recipes posted on the web,
"Instead of healing, they can take lives," he said, characterizing the
danger as "real and sizable."
Up to 50 per cent of all drugs taken in developing countries are
believed to be counterfeit, the board said, citing estimates from the
World Health Organization.
Buprenorphine, an analgesic, is now the main injection drug in most of
India, and it is also trafficked and abused in tablet form in France,
where the INCB estimates 20 to 25 per cent of the drug sold commercially
as Subutex is being diverted to the black market.
Canadians ditching heroin for prescription narcotics
A study published in November 2006 in the Canadian Medical Association
Journal found that heroin was no longer the opiate of choice among many
substance abusers in Canada - prescription narcotics such as morphine
and OxyContin were taking its place.
Researchers studied street users in seven cities across the country in
2005, and found that heroin remained the No. 1 illicit opiate only in
Vancouver and Montreal. In the five other cities - Edmonton, Toronto,
Quebec City, Fredericton and Saint John - more often than not, getting
high meant taking prescription opioids like Percodan.
When the study was released, lead author Benedikt Fischer, an addiction
researcher at the University of Victoria, said the switch to highly
addictive prescription narcotics among street users likely represents
just the tip of the iceberg
He said he suspected the numbers would be much higher if the general
population was factored in.
The INCB said the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs nearly
doubled from 7.8 million in 1992 to 15.1 million in 2003. Among their
prescription drugs of choice: the painkillers oxycodone, sold under the
trade name OxyContin, and hydrocodone, sold as Vicodin and used by 7.4
per cent of college students in 2005.
Although the number of U.S. high school and college students abusing
illicit drugs declined in 2006 for a fourth consecutive year, "the high
and increasing level of abuse of prescription drugs by both adolescents
and adults is a serious cause for concern," it said.
Counterfeiters are exploiting intense demand for prescription drugs that
can give a "high" comparable to cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine, the
watchdog group said.
(c) The Canadian Press, 2007
Posted by David Berner at 8:02 PM
Vaughn Palmer, as he often does, has performed another wonderful public service.
In today's column, he goes over the ICBC "chop shop" story in full - ICBC employees fixing and reselling smashed cars at cut-rate prices to friends and insiders, etc.; vice-presidents covering everybody's tracks, etc.
But what makes this update so important is that he reminds us that we know nothing substantive.
Who did what? What are their names? Do they still work for the Corp? Were they fired? Paid Off?
Isn't it wonderful how governments pass on their public responsibilities by taking public institutions and making them arms length corporations that are answerable to no one?
Posted by David Berner at 9:53 AM
The shootout at a Victoria nightclub, which resulted in one death and other calamities, has found a familiar new twist.
The 22-year old accused murderer was out on bail on drug and gun charges.
One of the conditions of his bail was that he not be in possession of a gun.
I asked this very question just a few days ago in another case...namely, who will monitor or police such conditions?
Answer: No One.
Who will monitor and police the judges who are an increasing danger to the community?
Posted by David Berner at 9:48 AM
You may have trouble believing this.
But it is reported in the Province and we have no reason to doubt it.
It's just that it points to a stupidity and selfishness so craven and hideous, one sputters.
Dad shuts son, 2, inside car to go see Batman movie
That's the headline.
Here is the story.
Posted by David Berner at 9:23 AM