Monthly Archives: April 2013


CN BC: When Heroin Hits Home

Media Awareness ProjectPubdate: Fri, 16 Jun 2000. Vancouver Sun (CN BC)CN BC: When Heroin Hits HomeAuthor: Rebecca Wigod

WHEN HEROIN HITS HOMETwo couples have responded to their sons’ addictions by championing the expansion of prevention, treatment and recovery facilities in B.C. If personal grief brought them to their cause, they brought to it professional abilities and connections.Rob and Susie Ruttan and Ray and Nichola Hall long ago set aside feelings of shame and failure over their sons’ addiction to heroin. Hammering their grief into action, the two Kerrisdale couples have emerged as crusaders for more treatment programs for drug- addicted youth.B.C.’s failure to provide long-term residential treatment for young people is a disgrace, they say.

The Ruttan’s son, now 18, languished for months on a waiting list in B.C.

Rob, A Crown prosecutor, and Susie, a former teacher, watched in horror as the boy – the grandson of a B.C. Supreme Court judge – sank from smoking heroin to shooting it to injecting heroin and cocaine twice a day.

While waiting for treatment that never materialized, he also contracted hepatitis C.

“When I heard [he had hepatitis C], I was just overcome with grief and rage against my government for not giving my son this essential health service,” Rob said.

There are only three residential treatment centres for drug-addicted youth in B.C., and one – the only one exclusively for adolescent girls – is closing because its funding has been cut.

The Ruttans finally got their son to Ontario and a treatment program called Portage, where he received 24-hour professional care for seven months.

“It saved his life,” said Rob.

But when their son came back to B.C., he couldn’t get much in the way of after-care.

“After two months or so, he had a relapse,” Rob said. “We managed to get him back to Portage for a cleanup week, and since then he’s had a series of relapses and clean stretches as he struggles.”

Rob believes it’s scandalous that in B.C. – which has the worst drug problem in the country – addicted young people have to go out of province for care.

He, Susie and the Halls also say it is time drug addiction was recognized as a health problem that can hit people in every socio-economic group – even the children of loving, attentive parents.

The Halls’ sons had easy access to marijuana at the elementary school they attended in a leafy neighbourhood where, as Susie puts it, every family has a golden retriever and drives a Dodge Caravan.

Twelve is the average age at which B.C. kids first try marijuana, according to the Kaiser Youth Foundation. In the last five years, marijuana use has doubled among B.C.’s 13-year-olds, according to the McCreary Centre Society’s 1998-99 adolescent health survey.

Marijuana doesn’t always lead to heroin, but it did for the Halls’ two sons, now 19 and 23.

Growing up, they were risk-takers by nature. They smoked marijuana as young teenagers and were persuaded by friends to try heroin.

Somehow, they crossed the boundary between what is safe and what is dangerous. They haven’t yet been able to get back.

Nichola, who works at the University of B.C., said her older son is in a methadone program for the second time.

“Relapse is part of recovery ,” she said. “This is something our treatment centres have yet to learn. They kick people out the minute they show any signs [of relapsing].”

Ray, a filmmaker and University of B.C. emeritus professor of theatre, film and creative writing, excused himself from his family’s kitchen table to take a phone call from his older son, who was at work and couldn’t pick up his methadone.

Ray spoke to him with concern ending their conversation with the words, “I love you.”

The Halls have reached an understanding of addiction. Because they know it is a kind of sickness, they are understanding and supportive of their sons in situations where others might just get mad.

For example, they have learned to lock their money and valuables in their bedroom. Even so, their sons have broken the door down when desperate for money to feed their addictions.

Leveraging their position as solid, respectable citizens, the Ruttans and Halls have formed a pressure group called From Grief to Action.

“We realized we had some credibility with politicians and the public that people on the Downtown Eastside don’t have,” Nichola said.

About 160 parents of young drug users packed St. Mary’s Anglican church in Kerrisdale when From Grief to Action held its first public meeting last month.

They have received masses of e-mail from anguished parents of middle-class kids with drug problems.

Susie, who answers it, said, “Every day, I get another e-mail with a story chillingly similar to ours.”

From Grief to Action has joined forces with other groups pressing for a more extensive network of prevention, detox treatment and recovery facilities in B.C.

The Ruttans and Halls have also come to appreciate activists who are arguing for controversial harm-reduction measures such as safe injection sites.

“We pray every day that our son won’t use,” said Rob. “But if he does use, we don’t want him dying in an alley.

“He has hep-C. We don’t want him to get HIV. We don’t want him to die of an overdose.”

MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart



United States – Punishment and Prejudice Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs,Human Rights Watch report June 2000


The single greatest force behind the growth of the U.S. prison system since the mid-1980s has been the national “war on drugs.”45 Spearheaded by major federal drug policy initiatives that significantly increased penalties for drug offenses and markedly increased federal funds for state anti-drug efforts, federal and state measures to combat drugs have concentrated on criminal law enforcement rather than prevention and treatment.46 An estimated 400,000 people — almost one-quarter of the total incarcerated population in the U.S. — are confined in local jails and state and federal prisons on drug charges.47 Citing the extraordinary number of drug offenders in U.S. prisons, General Barry McCaffrey, has decried the creation of what he termed a “drug gulag.”48

Policies adopted to battle the use and sale of drugs have led to marked increases in arrest rates, in the likelihood of going to prison, and in the length of sentences for drug offenders. Between 1980 and 1997, the number of annual drug arrests tripled to a high of 1,584,000.49 The rate of drug arrests per 100,000 residents rose from 288 to 661.50 The rate of commitment to state prison per drug arrest quintupled between 1980 and 1990, rising from 19 prison commitments per 1,000 arrests to 103 per 1,000.51 The estimated time served by drug offenders in state prisons increased a full year between 1987 and 1996; federal drug sentences doubled.52

As of 1997, there were an estimated 285,009 men and women in state and federal prisons on drug charges, a twelvefold increase since 1980. 53 Relative to the adult population, the rate of incarceration of drug offenders hasincreased almost tenfold, rising from less than 15 inmates per 100,000 adults to 148 per 100,000.54 In 1980, drug offenders comprised only six percent of state prison populations. By 1998, they constituted 21 percent. In federal prisons, drug offenders now comprise 59 percent of all inmates, whereas they represented only a quarter of federal inmates in 1980.55

Drug Offenders Admitted to Prison

Between 1980 and 1998, the number of new admissions of drug offenders to state and federal prison soared, exceeding 1.5 million in total (Figure 5). In recent years, about one hundred thousand drug offenders have been admitted to prison annually.

Nationwide, 31 percent of all admissions to state prison in 1996 were drug offenders. Among the states, the proportion of drug offenders varied between a low of 10 percent in Maine toa high of 46.6 percent in New Jersey and 44.7 percent in New York (Figure 6). In three quarters of the states, more than one in five persons sent to prison was convicted of a drug offense. In contrast, violent offenders accounted nationwide for only 26.8 percent of new state prison admissions.

Rate of Admission of Drug Offenders

There is a remarkable range in the extent to which states subject their populations to incarceration on drug charges (Table 8). The rates of admission of drug offenders to prison per 100,000 adult residents vary from a low of 6 per 100,000 in Maine to a high of 91 in California. The ten states that have the highest rates of drug offender admissions relative to population are: California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Nationwide, drug offenders are sent to prison at a rate, relative to population, that is 13 percent higher than the rate for violent offenders (Table 9). In one half of the states reporting to NCRP, the admission rates for drug offenders exceed those for persons convicted of violent crimes. Six states — Arkansas, California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia — send drug offenders to prison at rates that range from 50 to 100 percent higher than the rates for violent offenders.

Drug Offending and Prison Admissions

The broad range in admission rates for drug offenders across the country cannot be ascribed simply to variations in drug use and sales in different states. Table 10, covering twenty six states, presents federal estimates of the percentage of the population over 12 in those states who were current illicit drug users in 1991-1993.56 Although some drug users may cross state lines to purchase drugs, we assume that relative rates of drug use in each state also roughly reflect relative amounts of drug sale activity. Comparing drug use rates with calculations of the rate relative to population at which drug offenders in those states were sent to prison reveals the lack of a consistent correlation between drug offending and the imprisonment of drug offenders. First, the percentage of the population that used drugs varied among states from 4.1 to 8.2 percent, compared to a range in drug offender admission rates that extended from 8 to 91. Second, the states with higher rates of drug use were not necessarily the states with higher drug offender admission rates. Oregon, for example, had the third highest percentage of drug use, yet it had one of the lowest rates of drug admissions. In contrast, California had both the highest rate of drug use and the highest rate of drug offender admissions. Third, lower drug use did not necessarily correlate with low drug offender admissions rates. The percentage of Illinois’ population that used drugs was quite low, yet the statehad the second highest rate of drug offender admissions. Similarly, Louisiana had a relatively low rate of drug use yet it had one of the highest rates of drug admissions.

Obviously, no definitive conclusions can be drawn from a comparison of these two rather crude sets of figures. Nevertheless, the data suggest the explanation for the different rates at which people are sent to prison for drug offenses must lie in different penal policies and priorities among the states, including different law enforcement resources and strategies, prosecutorial charging preferences, and sentencing laws, as well as structural and demographic factors, e.g., degrees of urbanization, rather than rates of drug offending.

Drugs Involved In Offense

The NCRP data does not permit reliable calculations about the extent to which different “hard” drugs (e.g., cocaine, amphetamines, heroin) were involved in drug offenses. The data is somewhat better with regard to the identification of marijuana offenses, which were identified as the drug involved in 4.3 percent of all drug admissions. 57 In nine states marijuana offenses accounted for more than ten percent of drug admissions: Alabama (16.09), Iowa (17.22), Kentucky (12.4), Mississippi (14.50), New Hampshire (28.83), North Dakota (43.02), South Carolina (11.25), South Dakota (18.3), and West Virginia (20.63) (Table 11).

Type of Drug Conduct

People are sent to prison for both drug possession and sales-related conduct. In 1996, the simple possession of drugs (excluding possession with intent to sell) was the most serious conviction offense for 28 percent of all drug offenders admitted to state prison (Table 12). Fifty-six percent of drug offender admissions were for drug sales, and the rest for other drug-related offenses (e.g., fraudulent prescriptions and unlawful possession of syringes). In nine states (Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia) more than 50 percent of drug offenders sent to prison were convicted of simple possession.

Low-level offenders

Whether convicted on possession or sales charges, relatively few of the drug offender prison admissions over the past two decades have been high-profile drug traffickers, “king pins,” or persons occupying high level positions within sophisticated drug dealing enterprises. 58 Available research indicates that most incarcerated drug offenders are bit players in the drug trade, such as small-time dealers selling to customers on the streets, addicts trying to support their habit,59 “mules” or couriers trying to earn some extra cash, and women pressed into occasional service by drug dealing boyfriends. Most of the men and women incarcerated in New York prisons on drug offenses, for example, whether first or repeat offenders, were convicted of low level drug offenses involving minute drug quantities.60 Even federal drug defendants, who would be expected to have higher level profiles than state drug defendants, are primarily low level offenders.61 According to the United States Sentencing Commission, only 11 percent of federal drug defendants were high level dealers; more than half were street level dealers or mules. 62Another federal analysis indicated that over one-third of the drug felons in federal prisons were low level nonviolent offenders.63

Some supporters of the war on drugs have justified the incarceration of drug offenders on the assumption that it incapacitates people who are dangerous apart from their drug-dealing. Research to date on the criminal histories of incarcerated drug offenders consistently shows, however, that most cannot reasonably be considered dangerous individuals. Three quarters of the drug offenders in state prisons in 1997 had no prior convictions for violent crimes; one third had prior sentences limited to drug offenses.64 In 1991, fourteen percent of the drug offenders in state prisons had no prior sentence; 84 percent had no prior sentences for violent crimes.65 Human Rights Watch’s analysis of incarcerated drug offenders in New York revealed that the majority had nonviolent criminal histories.66 Among felony defendants in large urban counties arrested on drug charges, 38 percent had no prior convictions, even for a misdemeanor; only 11 percent had a prior felony conviction for a violent crime.67 Independent researchers determined that Arizona, New Mexico, and New York imprison large numbers of drug-only offenders, i.e. people whose current offense is a drug crime and whose past criminal offenses were limited to low level nonviolent drug crimes. 68 In Massachusetts, an analysis of a sample of incarcerated male drug offenders revealed most had either no prior criminal record, or records classified as minor or moderate.69

45 Michael Tonry, a prominent U.S. criminologist, has pointed out that the war on drugs gathered steam after the use of cocaine had already begun to decline. Federal drug use surveys show cocaine use rose markedly between 1983 and 1985, and then began a steep decline, leveling off in 1992. Tonry, Malign Neglect. Federal drug use surveys indicated the number of cocaine users declined from 5.7 million in 1985 to 1.4 million in 1992 and has not changed significantly since then; the number of frequent cocaine users has not changed much since 1985; and the number of occasional users decreased from 7.1 million in 1985 to 2.4 million in 1994 and has remain unchanged since then. The number of current crack users has not changed since 1988. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Summary Findings from the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 16. The trends are probably more reliable than the precise numbers because of a large sampling error and potentially significant underreporting in the survey. The rise, leveling off, and decline of crack varied in its timing in different cities and areas across the country. Andrew Lang Golub and Bruce D. Johnson, “Crack’s Decline: Some Surprises Across U.S. Cities,” National Institute of Justice: Research in Brief, Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, July 1997.
46 About two-thirds of the federal drug budget is allocated to interdiction, law enforcement and supply reduction efforts. One-third is allocated for prevention, treatment and demand reduction. Office of National Drug Control Policy, The National Drug Control Strategy, 2000. These proportions have not varied significantly in recent years.
47 Marc Mauer, “The Crisis of the African-American Male and the Criminal Justice System,” written testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, April 15-16, 1999 (citing data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics).
48 CBS This Morning, September 13, 1999.
49 The Sentencing Project, Drug Policy and the Criminal Justice System, (Washington D.C.: The Sentencing Project, August 1999),citing FBI, Crime in the United States, various years. Arrests have soared not just for “hard” drugs such as cocaine and heroin, but for marijuana as well. In 1996, there were over 406,000 arrests for marijuana possession alone. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (DOJ/FBI), Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States, 1998 (Washington, D.C.:USGPO, 1998). (Figure calculated by Human Rights Watch from data in table 4.1 and table 29).
50 Blumstein and Beck, “Population Growth,” pp. 29-31.
51 The rate of commitments per arrest dropped to 77 per 100,000 in 1996. BJS, “Truth in Sentencing.” The increase in the likelihood of being sent to prison following an arrest and its impact on state incarceration rates was greater for drug offenses than for murder, assault, robbery, burglary, and rape. Blumstein and Beck, “Population Growth,” p. 41.
52 Time served by drug offenders in state prison rose from 1.3 years to 2.3 years; in federal prisons the time rose from seventeen months to forty-seven. Blumstein and Beck, “Population Growth,” p.36
53 In 1980, an estimated 23,900 people were in state and federal prison for drug offenses. Blumstein and Beck, “Population Growth,” p. 21. In 1998, there were an estimated 227,400 drug offenders under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities at year end 1998. BJS, “Prisoners in 1998.” An estimated 57,609 drug offenders were in the custody of federal correctional authorities for drug offenses. Sourcebook 1998, Table 6.52
54 Blumstein and Beck, “Population Growth,” pp. 20-21.
55 BJS, “Prisoners in 1998.” Justice Research and Statistics Associates, Crime and Justice Atlas, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, June 1998, p. 134.

56 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Substance Abuse in States and Metropolitan Areas: Model Based Estimates from the 1991-1993 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse Summary Report, Washington, D.C.,1996.

57 The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that marijuana was involved in the current offense of 12.9 percent of drug offenders in state prison and 18.9 percent of drug offenders in federal prison. Christopher Mumola, “Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (January 1999), p. 2.

58 See., e.g., William J. Sabol and James P. Lynch, “Crime Policy Report: Did Getting Tough on Crime Pay?” The Urban Institute, August 1997, available at

59 Forty-two percent of state prisoners convicted of drug offenses reported being under the influence of drugs at the time they committed their current offense. BJS, “Substance Abuse and Treatment.”

60 Human Rights Watch, Cruel and Usual;Human Rights Watch, “Who Goes to Prison for Drug Offenses? A Rebuttal to the New York State District Attorneys Association,” available at; Human Rights Watch “Official Data Reveal Most New York Drug Offenders Are Nonviolent,” also available at

61 Federal drug law enforcement agencies place a priority on major drug traffickers and other significant drug law offenders.

62 United States Sentencing Commission, Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy, 1995. p. 172. The Sentencing Project, Drug Policy and the Criminal Justice System, p.3.

63 U.S. Department of Justice, “An Analysis of Nonviolent Drug Offenders with Minimal Criminal Histories,” (unpublished report, February 4, 1994). For a discussion of the Department of Justice’s findings, see Marc Miller and Daniel Freed, “Editors Observations on the Disproportionate Imprisonment of Low-Level Drug Offenders,” 7 Federal Sentencing Reporter 3 (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, July, 1994).

64 BJS, “Substance Abuse and Treatment,” p. 2.

65 In 1991, 126,929 out of a total of 150,305 drug offenders in state prison had no prior felony convictions. Sabol and Lynch, “Crime Policy Report,” Table 3. Alfred Beck et al., “Survey of State Prison Inmates 1991,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (March 1993).

66 Human Rights Watch “Official Data Reveal Most New York Drug Offenders Are Nonviolent”; Human Rights Watch, “Who Goes to Prison for Drug Offenses? A Rebuttal to the New York State District Attorneys Association.”

67 Timothy C. Hart and Brian A. Reaves, “Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 1996,” Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice (October 1999), Tables 11 and 12.

68 See, John Dilulio, “Against Mandatory Minimums,” National Review, May 17, 1999. Anne M. Piehl, Bert Useem and John Dilulio, Right Sizing Justice: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Imprisonment in Three States, (New York: Manhattan Institute, September 1999).

69 William N. Brownsberger and Anne M. Piehl, “Profile of Anti-Drug Law Enforcement in Urban Poverty Areas in Massachusetts,” November 1997. Brownsberger, a research fellow in drug policy at Harvard Medical School and Assistant Attorney General for Narcotics and Special Investigations prepared this report with a grant form the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Substance Abuse Policy Research Program.


Switzerland: Swiss Say Yes To Doling Out Heroin

Media Awareness ProjectPubdate: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 Source: Insight Magazine (US)

Switzerland: Swiss Say Yes To Doling Out Heroin

Author: Diane Sabom

SWISS SAY YES TO DOLING OUT HEROINLast summer Swiss voters endorsed state distribution of heroin to addicts in the name of ‘harm reduction.’ Some Americans want the United States to emulate the Swiss. Picture a well-lit room with metal tables.

On each is a candle and a kidney-shaped dish. Inside the dish are a syringe, some cotton, a spoon, Band-Aids and a rubber tourniquet. Mirrors line the walls to be used by junkies who must shoot up into their necks because their arm veins are gone. A medical practitioner stands ready, if needed, to provide instruction in the proper injection of heroin or to intervene in the case of an overdose. Addicts return several times a day to such “safe-injection rooms” to receive their high-quality fix at little or no cost, sometimes with a cup of coffee. And all thanks to the Swiss government.

The Swiss government has authorized the controlled distribution of prescription heroin since 1994 and it was approved by Swiss voters in a June 1999 referendum after a furious campaign based on Swiss government reports. Never mind that those studies were deeply flawed, say independent analysts, including the World Health Organization, or WHO.

Now, despite the emphatic claims of independent agencies that Swiss drug policy has been a failure, some are advocating that the United States follow the Swiss example.

There is a libertarian-populist streak in the American political temperament to which this sort of thing appeals.

Rep. Tom Campbell, the Republican senatorial candidate seeking to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein in California, tells Insight that although he is not endorsing any such proposal, “if a city wants to try what was tried in Zurich, it should have the freedom” to do so.

But even some recovering addicts are dubious about this approach.

Former heroin addict Jerome Hunt of Atlanta tells Insight that safe-injection rooms involve “exploitation of freedom” and “an incentive to remain addicted.” He adds that heroin is “a tool of self-destruction, whether it’s free or whether you have to steal to get it. It’s fueling an allergy that’s going to make you break out, no matter how you get it. It’s going to lead me to the same consequences that it has led me to over and over and over again.

That’s just the nature of addiction.”

Nevertheless, the advocates of legal venues for heroin use have no doubts. Ethan Nadelmann is the executive director of the Lindesmith Center, a New York-based think tank funded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to liberalizing drug policy.

In an interview with Insight, Nadelmann calls the Swiss heroin-prescription experiments “extremely successful” and proposes that, “at the very least, [we should] try them here to see if they’d work.” Nadelmann invokes the Swiss example as a “harm-reduction” guide for treating hard-to-reach addicts.

The idea is that abuse of narcotics is here to stay and that policies must be developed to deal with the reality by seeking to minimize harm to drug users and to society itself.

The Swiss experiment was a response to the widespread marketing and use of drugs in public spaces such as railroad stations and Zurich’s “Needle Park.” The feasibility of prescribing and supervising self-administered heroin injections to more than 1,000 persons in safe-injection rooms was evaluated in 18 projects from 1994 to 1996, often known as the Swiss drug trials. Although these projects were officially authorized on condition that they be studied scientifically, physician analyst Ernst Aeschbach of Swiss Doctors Against Drugs writes that the principal impetus was “political pressure to devise a plan for easy and unlimited access to heroin” and other drugs.

The Swiss federal Office of Public Health and the experiment’s directors were praising the results even before the end of the test period.

The public was informed that almost every possible measurement showed a plus — that drug use stabilized, crime was down, health and social functioning of addicts improved, the death rate plummeted and society was saving money.

The Swiss were promised that the forthcoming report from WHO would corroborate all of this.

At the request of the International Narcotics Control Board, or INCB, the WHO had convened an independent evaluation by experts to study the integrity of the Swiss projects.

When the long-awaited report was released in April 1999, the WHO experts pronounced the studies deeply flawed.

These flaws have been corroborated by Aeschbach and Yale University’s Sally Satel, both physicians who state flatly in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment that “the Swiss heroin trials cannot be considered a valid experiment.” Aeschbach and Satel point out that the scientific method of these trials was faulty; the sample of participants was not representative; the verification of outcomes was inadequate; and finally, the doctors note, even the Swiss report itself cites negative consequences.

Nadelmann responds by attacking the critics.

He tells Insight that the INCB is “a corrupt and dishonest body [which has] lost sight of its basic mission — which is that drug control should be about public health.” With scant mention of the WHO findings, he and the Lindesmith Center continue to tout the alleged successes of heroin-maintenance projects, using experts from Switzerland now in other countries attempting to transplant the Swiss model.

Nadelmann cites the work of Ambros Uchtenhagen, the head of the Swiss program, whose summary of the drug trials was published by Lindesmith in 1997. The summary does not mention that the scientific protocols set up to use double-blind and randomized studies to compare the effectiveness of heroin with other narcotics such as morphine and methadone were discarded after 42 days. This raises grave suspicion since, in a double-blind study, neither researchers nor participants know which substance is received by the subject. The WHO report reveals that both parties in the Swiss trials were aware of which substances were injected.

According to Aeschbach, participants thus may be “choosing” their own drugs, eliminating the possibility of being randomly assigned to a group.

Even Nadelmann’s publication confirms that “the trial quickly determined that virtually all participants preferred heroin, and doctors subsequently prescribed it for them.” In the end, the ratio of heroin users to those of morphine and/or methadone became 8-to-1, respectively.

Initially the target group or sample was to include only the “severely addicted” who were more than 20 years of age — addicts of at least two years duration who had failed in at least two other treatment programs.

As the study progressed, these criteria were not met. For instance, 49 percent of participants had not had any inpatient therapy for their addiction, while another 26 percent had only had one therapeutic experience. Their state of health at the time of recruitment was classified as “good” or “very good” in 79 percent, with 80 percent deemed to be in a good nutritional state.

Only 2 percent were in “very bad” psychological condition.

According to Aeschbach, the volunteers’ overall good health casts doubt on the categorization of these persons as “severely addicted.” Moreover, 18 percent of the sample did not qualify as heroin addicts according to a prescribed criteria of usage, and some 61 percent of participants should not have been included since they were in active treatment programs which had not yet proved unsuccessful.

The alleged positive outcomes attributed to the Swiss drug trials become less conclusive the more they are scrutinized. Many of the reports of reduced crime were in fact “self-reports” from the addicts themselves. Such measurement, without verification, is not scientifically valid.

Also HIV/AIDS testing was not done consistently; thus, the rate of infection could not be determined accurately. And urine testing to check for drug usage was performed only at expected times, making it an unreliable modality for assessment.

While addicts reported improvements in their health and social functioning, there was no control group that received social services but did not take narcotics. As Aeschbach and Satel record, the heroin trials spent almost five times more per patient for social services than is spent on those receiving standard methadone treatment.

And the WHO report concludes that it was not possible to determine whether any positive effects were the result of the heroin maintenance itself or of the psycho-social care.

A summary booklet of the WHO findings graphs drug-related deaths from 1986 through 1998 and explains that these data “very clearly show that the reduction in the number of drug-related deaths is chronologically correlated with the closing of the drug scenes and not with the distribution of heroin to addicts.”

Generally speaking, the studies failed to provide “convincing evidence that, even for persistent methadone failures, the medical prescription of heroin generally leads to better outcomes than further methadone-based treatment.” In the Geneva project, two-thirds of those assigned to a waiting list for the heroin-prescription trials chose not to enroll six months later since they had been stabilized on methadone.

In the words of the WHO panel, “[T]his indicates the need for extreme caution in the prescription of heroin” and suggests that the need for such prescriptions may be lessened if more efforts are made to engage patients in methadone-type programs.

One of the consequences of the Swiss heroin projects has been the marked reduction in the number of people enrolling in residential treatment facilities. In some instances, the caseload decreased by 50 percent. Abstinence-oriented clinics also reported a drop in registration, which forced some to close.

Given the finding that heroin maintenance could not be found to produce better outcomes than more conventional abstinence-oriented treatments, the closing of such treatment facilities is viewed by many as a negative by-product of the experiments.

In response to the Swiss trial data, Dan Schecter, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, tells Insight, “Sure. [Take] people who are hard-core addicts and put them in a medicalized environment where they’re getting more-frequent access to medical care [and], of course, you’re going to see some positive outcomes from that. But compare anything they’ve achieved through these heroin-stabilization programs with what drug treatment achieves, and there’s no comparison whatsoever! There are ways to go that achieve much better outcomes by many orders of magnitude compared with simply enabling an addict to be a heroin user.”

For instance, Schecter points to a 1997 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in which methadone treatment reduced heroin use by 70 percent during one year, while illegal activity decreased 57 percent among outpatient participants. In addition, a 1998 long-term study of treatment effectiveness by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration evaluated outcomes for a national sample of 1.1 million individuals. Five years after discharge from treatment, it found 21 percent fewer users of any illicit drugs.

Longer stays in treatment predicted greater decreases in alcohol abuse, drug use and criminality.

Even if the science of heroin maintenance should someday yield valid findings, the practice of harm reduction which underpins heroin by prescription would remain problematic to many. Satel, for example, has written of “the raw truth about harm reduction [as] the public-policy manifestation of the addict’s dearest wish: to use free drugs without consequence.” And, according to Schecter, “The source of harm is the nature of heroin and what it does to the human brain.

It’s not due to a moral failing on the part of someone, or necessarily to weakness.”

Indeed. A heroin addict of 30 years, now with almost 10 years in recovery, shares his experience with Insight. “I loved being on drugs, I loved it,” he says. “My [dream] was that I was going to be in a rocking chair and have me a home-care nurse who gave me my injections twice a day. But I was ‘dead,’ dead. I didn’t [have an] interest in anything, only heroin.

All I wanted to do was use it.” Now drug-free and working, this former addict claims to have everything he really needs. “I have those things because I stopped using and got back with you guys in this real world.

I used to stand on the street corner saying, ‘Look at that sucker having to go to work in the morning.’ No! We were the suckers, the ones that was using.”

According to Patrick Holzmann, a Swiss surgeon and activist against liberalizing his country’s drug policy, rehabilitating the addict requires abstinence. To him, it stands to reason that a tolerant atmosphere toward drug use, emblemized by the safe-injection room, only will increase the number of persons who try drugs.

In turn, the more people who experiment with drugs, the more who will become addicted.

Holzmann, who also volunteers his time to help prevent the spread of AIDS, denies the claims that new AIDS cases went down with the drug trials and cites the WHO report that, at any rate, inadequate testing made this impossible to prove.

In the end, Holzmann characterizes shooting rooms as “paint over rusty iron.”

The Swiss organization Courage to Take a Moral Stance, known in Europe by the acronym VPM, was at the forefront of the attempt to dissuade the Swiss public from adopting the so-called harm-reduction program.

Its president, Florian Ricklin, is a psychiatrist who is discouraged by the failure of efforts to persuade the Swiss to vote against the program in last year’s referendum. Ricklin tells Insight: “The whole world thinks the Swiss model works, but it doesn’t really.

It’s crazy what we are doing here in Switzerland.”

MAP posted-by: Don Beck

Peru: Peru Confirms Drugs-For-Guns Ring

Media Awareness ProjectPubdate: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 Source: (US Web)

Peru: Peru Confirms Drugs-For-Guns Ring

Author: Sean Federico-O’Murchu

Note: Sue Lackey and MSNBC’s Michael Moran contributed to this report. PERU CONFIRMS DRUGS-FOR-GUNS RINGMSNBC Broke Story Of Russian-South American Connection

NEW YORK, Aug. 25 – Peruvian officials this week confirmed details of a vast drugs-for-weapons ring involving Russian arms merchants, corrupt diplomats, Jordanian officials and Colombia’s largest rebel movement, a story that was first reported exclusively by last April.

ON APRIL 9, reported that Russian crime syndicates and military officers are supplying sophisticated weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, in return for huge shipments of cocaine.

The enterprise, described by a senior U.S. intelligence official as “literally an industry” involves giant Russian-built IL-76 cargo planes taking off from various airstrips in Russian and the Ukraine, refueling in Amman with the cooperation of corrupt diplomats and bribed local officials, and then using remote airstrips or parachute air-drops to provide tons of weapons to FARC, a violent insurgent army linked to drug cartels that is battling the Colombian government’s control of large areas of the country.

In exchange, the planes return laden with up to 40,000 kilograms of cocaine, most of which eventually makes its way into the former Soviet Union, Europe and the Persian Gulf.

Fujimori Offers Details

On Monday, Peru’s President Alberto Fujimori announced that his shadowy security adviser Vladimiro Montesinos had broken a smuggling ring supplying Jordanian arms to Colombian rebels. The ring, which officials said was headed by a retired Peruvian army lieutenant, used parachutes to drop at least 10,000 Russian-made automatic rifles obtained in the Middle East into rebel-held Colombian territory between March and July of 1999. Montesinos said that the Jordanian arms were shipped from the Canary Islands to Guyana and finally to Peru’s northern Amazon city of Iquitos, passing over southern Colombia.

The announcement drew an angry reply from Jordan, which denied any illegal activity. It was also denounced in Peru by opposition figures, who view it as a distraction from Fujimori’s current political troubles.

A senior Jordanian government official said in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday that the arms were sold in 1998 through legal channels and that Jordan was willing to show Peruvian government officials all the documents pertaining to the deal.

The Ukrainian Connection

The Peruvian announcement did not touch on the Russian connection to the arms shipments, although U.S. intelligence officials, all of whom spoke to on condition of anonymity, said the Russian involvement is substantial, the scope of which remains unknown to all but a few high-ranking figures in the American government.

“The source of the weapons is both organized crime and military. There is a tremendous gray area between the two in Russia and the Ukraine.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many KGB and other Soviet security agents appropriated bank accounts, companies and contacts used for covert operations, and turned them instead into conduits for their own organized crime activities, including arms and drug trafficking.

Refueling In Jordan

Officials close to the investigation cited intelligence intercepts that show the IL-76 cargo planes use Royal Jordanian Airlines cargo facilities in Amman, where airline officials are bribed to ignore false cargo manifests. While in Amman, the planes are cleared for transit under diplomatic cover originating from a Spanish-speaking embassy in Amman, according to U.S. intelligence officials.


“They’re using diplomatic authority to get that stuff in,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official close to the investigation. “If they’re not using a [diplomatic] pouch, they’re using diplomatic authority to clear the shipment. This is a big operation. There are a lot of people involved – it’s literally an industry.”

Once the planes have refueled in Amman, they fly to various landing strips throughout South America, where shipments are coordinated by a renegade Peruvian military officer, whose role was confirmed by Fujimori on Monday.

The FARC rebels, who control the distribution of the arms, pay the smugglers with cocaine, which is loaded onto the planes for the return journey through Amman. Hundreds of thousands of kilos of cocaine have been smuggled over the last two years. And at up to $50,000 per kilo, the payoff can be huge for the Russian crime groups, which smuggle most of the Colombian cocaine into the European heartland, usually via Spain.

U.S. Aid To Battle Colombia’s Cartels

The latest details about the arms-for-drugs smuggling ring put the spotlight again on Colombia’s losing battle against the well-armed cocaine cartels that operate with impunity in large sections of the country.

This week, overriding opposition from human rights groups, U.S. President Bill Clinton released $1.3 billion in aid to Colombia to fight its drug trade and he travels to Cartagena next Wednesday to meet President Andres Pastrana. According to U.S. officials, the aid package includes a few hundred U.S. military advisers who will go to Colombia to train special battalions in fighting the drug trade. But their presence is also likely to draw the attention of the guerrillas, whose weaponry, according to intelligence officials, include rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs) and Russian SA-model shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons similar to the U.S. Stinger missiles.

“[The guerrillas] get the RPG to explode in the vicinity of the tail rotor, which gives the helicopter its horizontal stability,” said a U.S. Army official. “All that has to happen is for the tail rotor to become a bit unbalanced or for a hydraulic line to be cut, and that helicopter is coming down. It takes good aim and cases full of RPGs, but it’s been done many times.”

However, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger on Thursday denied that the aid allocation would lead to the “Vietnamization” of Colombia. American involvement in Vietnam began with the dispatch of military advisers and ended with the deaths of around 50,000 U.S. troops.

“I think you can get paralyzed by the foreign policy of analogy,” Berger said. “You should learn from what happened before. But the fact is this is nothing similar whatsoever. We’re talking about a few hundred American people going to train some Colombian army battalions.”

Berger said the training would allow the battalions to provide security for the national police to go into the areas where the drug problem is most pervasive and destroy crops and laboratories.

MAP posted-by: Richard Lake

Ireland: Bug That Killed Heroin Addicts Identified By Scientists

Media Awareness Project16 Jun 2000 – Irish Examiner

Ireland: Bug That Killed Heroin Addicts Identified By Scientists

Author: Conor Keane

BUG THAT KILLED HEROIN ADDICTS IDENTIFIED BY SCIENTISTSA SOIL BASED bacteria that thrives in dead flesh has been identified as the heroin contaminant which caused the deaths of 37 addicts in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.

Clostridium novyi Type A is the name of the bacteria which health experts believe caused the deaths of the 36 injecting heroin users.

Experts at the Public Health Laboratory Service in Cardiff, Wales, and at the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, are now satisfied that the bacteria clostridium novyi Type A is the source of the illness which baffled health chiefs since it first emerged in Glasgow on April 19.

Professor Brian Duerden, medical director of the Public Health Laboratory Service said: ”Clostridium novyi Type A is well known as a cause of severe infection in domestic animals but rarely does so in humans.

”As far as we know, this is the first time this bacteria strain has ever caused an outbreak of infection in drug injectors.”

The bacterium was first identified at the beginning of the last century and was responsible for thousands of deaths during the First World War.

A spokesman for the Greater Glasgow Health Board said: “Our suspicion is that these clostridium have been in the heroin that the patients have been injecting. We might be talking about bacteria, but basically this is a human tragedy.”

He said the new cases which emerged in recent days show the bad batch of heroin is still in use.

The bacteria, which is not always fatal, has killed more than 50% of those who have contracted it since April.

Eight of the 15 heroin addicts who were infected in Dublin died, along with 20 of the 43 addicts infected in Glasgow, and nine of the 16 victims in England and Wales.

The bacteria’s spores can lie dormant in soil for months or years, and only become active in very particular circumstances, as the bacteria can only live in an oxygen free environment.

The illness has only affected drug users who inject heroin directly into muscle as opposed to a blood vein and women seem to be more susceptible than men to the illness.

Experts believe that the injection site may have dead tissue close by, which has no oxygen supply and allows the spores to activate and grow.

The scientists also speculate that the citric acid often added to the drug before injecting may help activate the dormant spores.

The bacteria does not cause problems but powerful toxins they release travel throughout the body wreaking havoc with vital organs including the heart.

Medical experts urge addicts with symptoms to get to hospital quickly. The infection is difficult to treat, even with modern antibiotics, but surgeons may be able to cut away the dead tissue containing the bacteria to save patients.

MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart

Thailand: Thai Cops Put Criminals’ Mugshots On The Net

Media Awareness Project20 Jun 2000 : Star (Malaysia)

Thailand: Thai Cops Put Criminals’ Mugshots On The Net

Source Reuters

THAI COPS PUT CRIMINALS’ MUGSHOTS ON THE NETBANGKOK: Thai police have started publishing mugshots and criminal

records of suspected gunmen and drug traffickers on the Internet in a bid to get public help to arrest them, police said on Monday.

Police webmaster Nathathorn Prousunthorn said the police hoped the public would tip them off if they saw the faces of wanted criminals.

“Information on criminals was previously known only to a small group of people,” said Nathathorn.

“Now the data is on the Internet, not only the public, but also police officers from different units know who to arrest.”

Mugshots and the records of about 20 suspects have been put on the website (

He said the United Nations’ Drug Control Programme would support the project financially after Thai police officers spent thousands of dollars of their own money setting up the website.

MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson

US: Drug Office Tracks Computer Visitors

Media Awareness ProjectPubdate 21 Jun 2000

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

US: Drug Office Tracks Computer Visitors

Author: Lance Gay, Scripps Howard News Service

US: Drug Office Tracks Computer Visitors
DRUG OFFICE TRACKS COMPUTER VISITORSBut Official Denies That Government Programs Are Spying On People

WASHINGTON – The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has taken its anti-drug message to the Internet, and it is secretly tracking those who find it in the process.

Search for drug terms like “grow pot” on some Internet sites, and an ad banner that pops up from the drug office may drop a “cookie” program in your computer that tracks your online activities.

“It’s sort of spooky,” said Internet consultant Richard Smith, a privacy advocate and former software engineer.

But despite what one critic called “Big Brother” tactics, the White House drug office says there’s nothing surreptitious going on. The computer cookies are simply tracking its anti-drug media campaign.

“Cookies” are personal identifiers used to track the Web sites that computer users visit and what they buy. They identify Internet surfers by the service they are using to get access to the Internet, and can be matched with other information online to provide personal identification. Cookies are secretly inserted in personal computers when surfers visit certain Web sites.

Smith said he inadvertently discovered the U.S. government cookies being dropped into his computer while doing Internet research for pharmaceutical companies.

White House ads offering information on marijuana pop up when Internet users search for certain words connected to drugs on Internet search engines like AltaVista or Lycos. The banner ads steer users to the anti-drug site, which is operated by the White House drug office. A tracking cookie is inserted in the user’s personal computer as the site is activated.

A Doubleclick Connection

Although Freevibe’s privacy notice states that “no information, including your e-mail address, will be sold or distributed to any other organization,” the site is connected to Officials of Doubleclick, a New York advertising firm that is one of the largest companies gathering data on Internet user use, told the Senate Commerce Committee last week it is developing new products that will profile more than 40 million Internet users.

Freevibe’s site says the White House drug office will collect the e-mail address “only so we can identify your submission.” It does not disclose that it will drop a cookie program in the personal computers of visitors to the site.

Donald Maple, senior policy analyst with the White House drug office, said the cookie programs are part of the banner advertising campaign run through the New York advertising firm Ogilvie and Mather. He said the government is not getting personal information on visitors to the site.

‘Didn’t Know It Was There’

“We have a specific agreement with Ogilvie and Mather that they will not provide personal identification,” Maple said. He said the advertising company uses the data to determine which banner ads are effective, and to tailor the ads to attract more visitors.

Maple admitted one of the anti-drug sites operated by the White House drug office and visited by 240,000 parents a month seeking information on drug abuse is itself inserting cookies into the computers of visitors. He said the drug office did not know this until a reporter pointed it out, and Tuesday ordered the contractor to disable the program.

“We didn’t know it was there,” Maple said. “It won’t be shortly.”

‘Not Tracking Individuals’

Gary Towning, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy account at Ogilvie and Mather, said the use of cookies started only this month “to help us better understand if the (ad) banners are driving people to our site.” He said the advertising firm has also bought the rights to link the drug office’s ads with several words typed in on search engines, including the word “pot.”

“We’re not tracking individuals. There’s nothing identifying here,” he said. “We’re trying to understand our media campaign.”

Civil liberties lawyers said government tracking of Internet users could raise constitutional questions involving issues of searches without a warrant, and questioned why the government is monitoring citizen’s Internet activities.

‘A Case Of Big Brother’

“This is nothing like what was envisioned by members of Congress,” said Eric Sterling, former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. Sterling worked with the panel in 1988 when it drafted the law creating the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to coordinate the government’s anti-drug-use policies.

“This is what is fairly called a case of Big Brother, you know as in ’1984′ where the government is clandestinely tracking you,” said Sterling, now president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation lobbying group.

Maple rejected concerns of civil liberties lawyers.

“I can’t see anything wrong with it at all,” he said, adding that the Internet is an ideal technology to reach young people with anti-drug messages.

MAP posted-by: Eric Ernst

Australia: PUB LTE: Drug War Is Lost, So Let’s Help The Wounded

Media Awareness ProjectSource: Sydney Morning Herald

Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jun 2000

Australia: PUB LTE: Drug War Is Lost, So Let’s Help The Wounded

Author: Paul Edwards

DRUG WAR IS LOST, SO LET’S HELP THE WOUNDEDAs a former drug education officer during the 1970s, it is depressing to see the same old arguments against harm minimisation rehearsed again and again. The war against drugs was lost by the 1970s and it is lost now. The enemy is well within the gates of our society and has settled down and become a “local”.

Drug addicts are not criminals per se, they are victims, and their criminality flows from being a victim. Illegality keeps the price of illegal drugs high and, therefore, forces addicts into crime to feed their habit. Illegality keeps the trade highly profitable. Illegality also encourages addicts to delay seeking help.

Prevention, harm minimisation and treatment are complementary approaches to the problem. Injecting rooms are merely the lifeboats into which addicts can be pulled so that their lives can be saved. Offers of effective help should be the next step.

By definition, addicts need their drug. Supply an addict with their drug of choice, legally and under strict control, and you immediately break the nexus between addiction and criminality. Once an addict has his/her need for a drug met, then he/she is available to consider a range of options for recovery including the decision to stay on a drug of addiction if he/she cannot succeed in becoming drug free.

The most successful drug maintenance program I have come across was a small, rural heroin maintenance program run by a very sane and humane British GP. He was supporting 18 addicts, all of whom were stable and crime-free. The Home Office finally closed the program.

The GP’s epitaph for it was that all of his patients would be dead in 12 months. All but two of them were.

Paul Edwards, Balgowlah Heights.

MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson

Australia: Wire: NSW Psychologist Arrested Over Injecting Room

Media Awareness ProjectAustralia: Wire: NSW Psychologist Arrested Over Injecting Room

Australian Associated Press Wed, 21 Jun 2000

Newshawk: Ken Russell

NSW PSYCHOLOGIST ARRESTED OVER INJECTING ROOMPolice have arrested a man for allegedly setting up his own public safe heroin injecting room.

The New South Wales psychologist is under investigation over the injecting room in the northern NSW town of Lismore.

He is currently being interviewed by police, a police spokesman said.

The unofficial heroin injecting room comes ahead of the opening of Australia’s first legal injecting room, which is due to open in Kings Cross in October.

It follows the controversial unauthorised shooting gallery at the Wayside Chapel, which had resulted in the arrest of a Kings Cross clergyman.

In August 1999, 61-year-old Uniting Church pastor the Reverend Ray Richmond was summonsed to appear at Downing Centre Local Court charged with aiding and abetting the self-administration of a prohibited drug.

He allegedly helped two men inject heroin in the Wayside Chapel on May 12.

The charges against Reverend Richmond were later dropped.

The Wayside Chapel’s so-called tolerance room became Australia’s first church-run shooting gallery when it opened amid controversy on May 3 last year before closing ten days later.

MAP posted-by: greg

DRUG WAR Can Santa Maria Kick It’s All American Habit?

Media Awareness ProjectSanta Maria Sun CA.

Fri, 21 Apr 2000

US CA: Drug War

By John Dean

DRUG WARCan Santa Maria Kick It’s All American Habit?

[Editorial Introduction:

The term "War on Drugs" has been prevalent in our society in the last two decades. Yet, I would bet most people don't truly understand its meaning.

The overall feeling about this war is that it only rages in foreign drug producing countries, or on the streets of cities like New York or Los Angeles.

But it also rages here.

This week's cover story by John Dean brings the War on Drugs home. The story, packed with powerful numbers, shows how drugs take lives every year in Santa Maria, and ruin countless others. It also shows how drugs cause crime, and lower our overall quality of life. If you never thought the war on drugs affected you, this story may make you think otherwise.

Meet the hometown warriors [p 6] here in Santa Maria that are fighting to help those in the powerful hold of drugs, and improve the overall quality of life in Santa Maria. While the war they are fighting may nver be won, I think you’ll find the individual battles they are winning are making a difference.

Marla J. Pugh, Editor]

Santa Maria, the All America City, like other American cities, has become the front line in the war on drugs. Ours is a city known for its agriculture; its blue-collar, hardworking citizens; and, in some circles, its methamphetamines. With the methamphetamine has come crime and social problems.

According to Assistant Public Defender James K. Voysey, 75 to 80 percent of the felony cases in Santa Maria are drug related.

Those numbers have meant that Santa Maria police and other law enforcement agencies have placed the drug problem high on their priority list. Recent drug sweeps in both Santa Maria and Guadalupe have been aimed to reduce drug-related crime. In addition, two treatment programs available to those arrested are boasting high success rates.

Last year, the city’s Narcotics Unit arrested a total of 457 people on drug charges and the unit confiscated 9.5 pounds of methamphetamines. That compares to just 98.3 grams of heroin, and 702.6 grams of cocaine that was confiscated. Officials said that the drugs confiscated in Santa Maria alone last year were valued at more than $37,000.

“There used to be a fairly substantial cocaine problem,” said Voysey. “Now we don’t see nearly as much cocaine as we see meth. Cocaine is more expensive and harder to get. Methamphetamine is incredibly cheap and the high lasts a lot longer.”

It is common knowledge among those in the drug world that if you want heroin you go to Santa Barbara, but if you want methamphetamine you come here, officials said. Much of that is due to the social and economic factors that make up Santa Maria, officials say. The drug is relatively cheap and allows users to go without sleep for days at a time and work longer hours. Methamphetamine has been proven to be popular among blue collar workers and is even referred to as the “poor mans cocaine.”

The drug gives off an initial euphoric high. But when that ends, the user goes down to a state of dysphoria or depression, said Voysey.

“That’s why the drug is so dangerous. You go way high and then way down and it eats at your body,” said Voysey. “Hence when you get to that dysphoric state after a long period of use, you get real nasty and you don’t have much of a cushion, as far as your personality is concerned, for anything that goes wrong.”

That is exactly what happened about two years ago in Santa Maria when a 19-year-old man killed his mother and shot his stepfather numerous times. The man had no criminal history. According to Voysey, his actions were a direct result of the drug.

“People commit all kind of really heinous violent crimes because of that dysphoric or that depressed state of mind they get into,” said Voysey. “If they can’t get their drug and someone is in their face, there is a chip on their shoulder to begin with. A lot of them are armed to protect their dope, and then you have the paranoia, so they’re also armed to protect themselves. It’s a vicious circle.”

A circle that Voysey sees often.

“Santa Maria is typical of the meth problem that California is experiencing,” said Voysey. “It’s not more or any less here, but it is a constant ongoing problem that we deal with.”

Drug Sweeps

The Santa Maria Police Department Narcotics and Gang unit have been busy combating the drug problem in the city. About a year and a half ago, a large amount of resources were concentrated on drug abuse within Santa Maria and Guadalupe due, in part, to the high amount of residential burglaries. The burglaries were tied directly to drug users breaking into peoples’ residences and looking for money or valuables to finance their habit.

Officers made 174 arrests in drug sweeps throughout Santa Maria and Guadalupe last year and residential burglaries are now down 40 percent. This years’ sweeps have netted approximately 70 to 75 drug arrests in Santa Maria and Guadalupe.

Drug sweeps involve weeks of preliminary investigations after which the department goes out and makes numerous arrests in one day. This method protects informants from being identified. Most informants have been arrested for being under the influence, a misdemeanor, and then cut a deal with the police to go undercover and make buys from people they have purchased dope from before. In return for their help, the informant gets a lesser punishment.

The police corroborate the informant’s information by going undercover and trying to buy drugs themselves. If they are able to collect evidence, then a search warrant can be issued. But all tips have to be corroborated with evidence before a search warrant can be given.

Santa Maria officers are also currently training Guadalupe police officers in locating narcotics users. The city’s Narcotic Unit spend time in the classroom with Guadalupe officers teaching about the drug and the characteristics of the user. Those same officers are then partnered up with Narcotic Unit officers for field training.

The police use a seven-step process in identifying meth users, which includes identifying the telltale signs of meth abuse, along with other physiological changes to the body.

“Overall it’s a good thing,” said Guadalupe mayor Sam Arca. “As a society we need to function and feel relatively safe.”

Arca sees treatment as the long term answer to the problem.

“Intervention and prevention is the way to go,” said Arca. “Incarcerating them is not necessarily going to help them.”

Drug Court

Arca’s opinions on drug rehabilitation is shared by many. That is why, in 1996, the Substance Abuse Treatment Court, otherwise known as Drug Court, was created simultaneously in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. It’s a minimum 18-month, five-phase outpatient program administered by Cottage Care. The program gives those arrested an opportunity to kick their habit and avoid jail time. If they don’t complete the program successfully, they are sent to jail to serve their time.

Graduates must also complete a GED program if they are not already high school graduates, and be gainfully employed upon completion. Social services such as job training and parenting classes are also accessible.

Even acupuncture, as a way to help relieve stress and calm withdrawal symptoms, is available for those who need it.

The treatment seems to be working. Drug Court has graduated a total of 120 people and has a success rate of 70 percent.

The program was patterned after the first drug court created by Janet Reno in Florida many years ago. Now there are almost 500 drug courts nationwide.

The fact that the program is working has not been lost on politicians. Recently, Gov. Gray Davis proposed a $10 million increase to the $8 million spent on drug court programs in the state. The funds will be used to add 15 new drug courts to the 65 that already exist in California. Included in that will be 15 drug courts specifically for juvenile offenders.

“The nice change is that there’s now accountability in treatment,” said Sue Green, Program Director. “Clients can’t hide in treatment to avoid legal action. This is a place where everybody puts it on the table and you have got to want to be here to succeed.”

Green has seen the success stories first hand.

“We have clients that are getting reunited with their children, getting custody back of their children. They’re reconnecting with their families,” said Green. “We have clients working everywhere in the community. It’s very difficult to go anywhere and not find some our clients working. That’s a nice feeling.”

One of the program’s best success stories is Mark Casto of Santa Maria, the first graduate of drug court. Casto says he is at a place five years ago he doubted he would ever get – he’s clean and sober. He looks back at his journey and is astounded that he has come so far.

“It’s just a miracle, said Casto. “It’s amazing.”

He began shooting up heroin at the age of 15 and admits to trying just about every drug possible, including methamphetamines. He made numerous attempts to get clean, even spending 13 years on a methadone maintenance program.

“I’ve tried every imaginable way to control my use of drugs and none of them worked,” said Casto.

At the age of 41, he moved here from southern California to kick his habit, but three or four days later he was back using again. Then his life took a turn for the better when he was arrested for being under the influence. Facing jail time, Casto adopted to go into the new program.

There were more than a few skeptics, and Casto was one of them. He didn’t put much faith in his own treatment because he had tried to stop so many times before and failed.

“No one thought that I was going to make it,” Casto said. “I was one of the harder cases. I was actually in there for like 20 months.”

He attributes the success of his recovery to the fact that drug court held him more accountable and educated him about his disease.

“I was basically monitored and educated,” said Casto. “A person can’t do better until they know better.”

Although his drug of choice was heroin, he sees little difference in the drug culture today and the one he came of age in. The drug has changed, but the problem remains the same, said Casto.

The only difference is in the education of police officers in fighting this problem. Specifically, he commends officers in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County.

“I think the drug problem is the same everywhere, but the police here do a very thorough job,” said Casto. “The police are becoming very educated.”

Casto now works closely with the police and people in the justice system in improving treatment programs and educating the young. He sees educating children as young as 10-years-old as a preemptive attack against future drug abuse.

The recovering addict now has a new lease on life and admits that if it had not been for Drug Court, he would be in prison.

“I was 42 years old before I ever experienced total freedom,” said Casto, referring to the freedom he now has over his habit.

But Drug Court has strict guidelines. No violent offenders and no one who was arrested for selling drugs for profit are allowed in. That leaves a large element of people – and some may argue the worst element – still in the powerful grip of the drug.

Substance Treatment Program

For those offenders who have a history of violence, or who have sold drugs for profit, their last hope may be David Vartabedian.

Vartabedian runs the Substance Treatment Program (STP) in the Santa Barbara County Jail. The program offers counseling, education on addiction, and 12-step meetings for inmates.

The program began in 1996 with facilities for 21 inmates. That number has grown in four years to 83. Participants in the program are segregated from the general jail population. The treatment program has 53 beds for men and 30 for women. STP is perpetually full with an ongoing waiting list.

Before the program was created, jail officials noticed that 75 percent of those incarcerated had a problem with alcohol or drugs. From that percentage, 70 percent returned to jail after their release for charges that were somehow alcohol or drug related.

“The sheriff recognized that their was a problem that needed to be addressed,” said Vartabedian.

After a year and a half in operation, approximately 220 people completed the STP program and of that amount only 38 percent were re-arrested and returned to the county jail.

“That gave me a barometer that said this program is doing something,” said Vartabedian.

After completion of their jail time, about 60 percent of the graduates of STP enter into a transitional home for sober living, which helps to ease their transition back into society.

“The transition homes all say that the clients they get from the STP program have a good foundation toward recovery,” said Vartabedian. Because the first and foremost job of the jail is to protect the public, it is in the best interest of society to safely transition drug offenders back into our community, he said.

Vartabedian also points out that tax-payers do not pay for the inmates treatment. The program is funded from profits from the commissary and phone calls by inmates, as well as from a grant from the county.

The treatment program also differs from other programs because Vartabedian, three counselors, and an intern, are all Sheriff Department employees and their salaries are worked into the jails’ budget.

“So if funding runs out, we don’t go away,” said Vartabedian.

Vartebedian said the first thing the counselors do in the program is to get the participants to recognize there is a problem and to take responsibility for their actions. There are no victims in the program, he said.

“I think addiction has a lot to do with unachievable goals in society,” said Vartabedian. “We push that this is success and when you can’t achieve that you seek other outlets.”

Vartabedian also sees education and awareness as the key in fighting drug use.

“It [addiction] has been recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association for years, but as a society we’re still in the dark ages about addiction.”

He admits that sometimes the job can be tough. A jail drug counselor deals with travesties every day and are seeing people at the lowest point of their life.

“But going to the STP Alumni Association meetings and seeing the productive people they’ve become it’s a boost,” said Vartabedian. “They’re givers now instead of just takers.”

[Inset #1: Facts About Meth

Methamphetamine can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected. The drug is very easily manufactured in home-made labs.

The precursor for meth is ephedrine, which often times comes in through Mexico or can be bought at some drug outlets or even over the Internet. The ephedrine is then "cooked" in a lab to create this drug.

Meth usually appears as a white powder or as whitish crystals in the case of "ice," a slang term for the smokable form.

Meth has been known to cause nausea, tremors, dizziness, hypothermia, heart failure and stroke.

Because the drug is produced in home-made labs, users take a chance that the substance is cooked incorrectly and that other chemicals or drugs are substituted.

The signs of meth use are very recognizable and include shrunken eyes, loss of weight and scabs on the skin. The drug causes paranoia and users think they have bugs underneath their skin, causing them to scratch and sometimes cause open sores.

Long term users mirror the symptoms of a paranoid schizophrenic. Users can experience severe paranoia, and audio and visual hallucinations. Although these symptons usually stop when the drug is cleared completely out of the body, they sometimes linger for weeks or even months. Scientists attribute this to damage of the neurotransmitters in the brain.]

[Inset #2: The Numbers

174 ... the number of arrests from drug sweeps throughout Santa Maria and Guadalupe last year.

70 - 75 ... drug arrests in Santa Maria and Guadalupe from sweeps so far this year.

40% ... the reduced amount of residential burglaries since police started doing drug sweeps in Santa Maria and Guadalupe.

75 - 80 ... the percentage of felony cases in Santa Maria that are drug related.

457 ... people arrested on drug charges in Santa Maria by the city Narcotics Unit last year.

9.5 lbs ... amount of methamphetamines confiscated by the city Narcotics Unit last year. That compares to just 98.3 grams of heroin and 702.6 grams of cocaine confiscated.

$37,000 ... the value of all drugs confiscated just in Santa Maria last year.

120 ... the number of people who have graduated from Santa Maria's Drug Court since it's creation in 1996.

70% ... the success rate of people staying clean after going through the Drug Court program.

220 ... the number of people who have completed the county jail's Substance Treatment Program in just it's first year and a half of operation.

38% ... the number - down from 70 percent - of people who were arrested again for drug-related offenses and returned to jail after going through the Substance Treatment Program.]

MAP posted-by: Jo-D