Category Archives: Addiction

Take This and Shut Up

By Kerry Porth

Earlier this year, I attended a talk on the Global Drug War.  After the talk, audience members were given an opportunity to ask questions and I was struck by a comment made by a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU).  After introducing himself as a heroin user of some 35 years, he declared that “abstinence should not be viewed as a victory but rather, a defeat. It represents the complete and utter failure of self-will.” I was surprised to find myself in enthusiastic agreement with him.

For 23 years, my regular attempts to “recover” from addiction were facilitated by the 12-steps. This model posits addiction as a chronically relapsing disease. The medical detoxification facilities I attended (12 times in as many years) required daily attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and group therapy sessions where we were told that the only positive outcome was complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol.  We were told that we must no longer associate with anyone who uses drugs or alcohol and that we should avoid “slippery” places such as bars or areas where we used to score drugs.  We were told that we could never control our use or have just one drink. Drug addicts who had never abused alcohol were told they couldn’t drink and alcoholics were told they couldn’t smoke pot. To do so would mean an immediate relapse into hard-core addiction. We were told we couldn’t make any decisions for at least a year.  We were told we couldn’t enter into a romantic relationship.  Basically, we were told that we were an extreme danger to ourselves, we were sick, incurable, and would never have self control.  Indeed, the first of the twelve steps is an admission of powerlessness.

Well, I call bullshit. Continue reading

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“We’ve told three lies”: When our visionaries take one step back in order to leap forward.

By Ashley White

When one has hit upon – or stumbled, whatever – their own version of meaningful, substantive work, one also usually finds for themselves visionaries in the field to look to as mentors.  Because we know thatattachment to the labour force is a social determinant of health, meaningful attachment, then, requires things like: leaders, opportunities for innovation and positive deviance, and trails half-blazed (pardon the pun).

For me, Mark Haden has been one of these visionaries since I first met him in 2008.  He’s a Vancouver drug educator, among many other things, who has changed his mind – and his presentations – on how to do drug education to adults and youth over the past 25 years.  In the video below, in an interview filmed and produced by the  Canadian Drug Policy Coalition’s Heiko Decosas for the CDPC’s Blog, Mark outlines three lies that have typically prevented the general public from engaging in meaningful discourse on drug use.  Without good information, we can’t have good dialogue and we can’t build smart policy.  The lies? Misconstruing the harms of drugs, not explaining the harms of prohibition, and not explaining the potential benefits of drugs.

Mark is making a real difference.

Continue reading

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The end of the journey to safe, regulated markets for sex work? No. It’s more like a stop-over.

For me, it’s been a passionate and outspoken six year crusade to improve the human rights, safety, and dignity of Canadian sex workers.  For others, it’s been decades.  For some, the issue is just beginning to register as mainstream.  On Monday, March 26, 2012, there was yet another exciting stop-over in a journey that has yet to reach an end.

I was up at 5:45am and sitting across from Rick Cluff at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) at 6:40am to discuss the constitutional challenge to Canada’s Prostitution Laws in Ontario.  Justice Susan Himel struck down three laws relating to sex work in September of 2010:  Keeping a Common Bawdy House (Section 210), Living off the Avails (subsection J of Section 212), and Communication for the Purposes of Prostitution (Section 213).  This was a historic victory for Canadian sex workers as these particular laws work both individually and collectively to prevent sex workers from taking safety precautions while engaged in an exchange of sex for money – an exchange which has NEVER been illegal in Canada.

Working at an indoor location, rather than on the street, is much safer and this is backed up by reams of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative. Working indoors means that sex workers have better control over their working environment including having someone else present if anything goes wrong.

The Living off the Avails law was enacted, in part, to protect sex workers from exploitative pimps.  In reality, this law can apply to ANYONE who receives financial support from a sex worker, including her partner or her children.  This law also prohibits sex workers from hiring individuals to provide additional safety such as security guards, drivers and receptionists.  I would also point out that there are violent, exploitive men living off the avails of women in a variety of professions – the financial exploitation of women is not restricted to the sex trade. Continue reading

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The Tricky Business of Reducing Risk

The Tricky Business of Reducing Risk: Canada’s drug policy pits evidence against ideologues

Megaphone Magazine, Vancouver’s street newspaper, takes a look at drug treatment vs. harm reduction in the downtown east side.

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Nunavut Quits

By Ashley White

Nunavut Quits is a series of campaigns – based on real stories of Nunavummiut – launched by the Government of Nunavut as part of the “Tobacco has no place here” project.  While the message is clearly in line with government priorities on tobacco (i.e. abstinence, and cessation), the campaign uses real Inuit voices and stories to discuss the pre-history of tobacco in Inuit territory and addresses stereotypes about the ritualization and ceremonialization of tobacco use in Inuit communities.  That is, until European contact, the Inuit – whom are different than the First Nations Aboriginal Peoples in Canada – did not use, grow or trade tobacco.

Continue reading

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Power to Empower – Vancouver’s Supervised Injection Facility

By Ashley White

Arguably the most contentious facility in the country, the evidence on Insite’s ability to prevent the transmission of blood-borne illnesses, overdose deaths, needle-sharing and other harms related to high-risk drug use, is clear, definitive and immaculate. It most certainly is not “too early to tell” if Insite works, as was asserted by the Ontario Minister of Health and Long Term Care Deb Mathews last November.

Funny thing about research on public health interventions that powerful people incorrectly believe are morally bankrupt:  it has to be among the most technically sound, well-planned and resourced.  In addition, an armada of local grassroots activists – including people who use in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – clinicians, counsellors, law enforcement, researchers, doctors, students, and writers must be there, every day, publicly defending the interventions’ right to exist, as ideologically-crazed, evidence-eschewing politicians, think tanks, and media barons launch irrational campaigns for the facility’s closure. Continue reading

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