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Personal statement from Polish friend and opiaphile activist

I am 29 years old woman from Krakow, Poland. I was born here, and it was here I started to take heroin when I was 13 years old. My mother studied history and my father is a judge in Highest Court. So I can say that I had best background possible. At that time, my treatment option was to go into a psychiatric hospital and after detoxify tried to remain abstinent. I stopped counting hospital visits after 10. In 98 I went to MONAR centre for rehabilitation where I stayed for two months but this also didn't work for me. I returned to Krakow and all my problems with heroin started again. I knew that at that time in Warsaw was methadone program so I started lobbying for same thing in Krakow and others cities

In 2000, a methadone program begin in Krakow I was one of few first patients there.

But (there is always some but) I get thrown out for taking heroin again and then I get infected HIV and HCV. I just stop caring for my life.

I have studied law at the Jagiellonian University for 3 semesters, but the doctor said that even methadone is not working for my treatment, I just gave up a little bit. But my strong personality does not allowed my to just surrender and I returned on methadone.

Since that time, 5 years ago I stop taking illegal drugs and focused on users human rights that are constitutionally protected but are broken so often.

Two years ago a group of us from Krakow methadone program members started an association: we did all necessary things that it legal and it is first drug users association running only by DU`s and IDU`s in Poland.

We plan to make a national network of drug users organization.

That’s my story and because of non effective drug policy I was discriminated for so many years, I lose family support because they was told by government organization treating drug users to be thrown on the street, that was organisation only advice and concealing to my family! I loose health from lack of clean needles and syringes. I left University because of discrimination of methadone users.

All this events get me thinking and I started to be drug user activist.

Now I see my future connected with the human rights movement, especially helping most discriminated people, who are in my opinion drug users. I want to see real change for next generation and I think that my experience could be helpful and that in future case mine will be exceptions rather than the norm in the EU.

Marianna Iwulska

Oct 1 2006/Kracow/Poland


A Night on the Tiles..

Stable & maintained on an opiate painkiller for a congenital spinal condition, delighted that it had the added benefit of making winter bearable, I began to spend time on the streets outreaching to fellow drugs users. These were largely African-Caribbean, largely homeless and in some cases poly-drugs-users. This began when I witnessed the most terrifying act of violence, at the end of 2004’s summer. Fortunately, I was far enough away not to see the impact it was having on its victim, but close enough to see that two men were beating hell out of one person with long metal weapons, that could kill another human being. I was walking home one summer evening when a young guy asked me for money and cigarettes. I was tired and just wanted to go to bed, so I said “sorry no” to both requests and attempted to walk on by. Then he said, “Well do you have any filters then?” (For any reader who doesn’t know), filters are used to draw drug solutions up into the syringe without the impurities that are so often present in street-drugs. I was so shocked by the question; I turned round and said, “How d’you know I’m not the friggin’ drug squad?!” Lamely, he replies, “I just know you’re not…” Then began a long conversation about using needles and AIDS and hep and much more.

He said, “We don’t care anymore; really most people ‘out here’ don’t care whether they share works or not.” I declared, “I just don’t believe that! How can you not care if you get life-long potentially fatal infections?” He was around 25, working-class – that a word people still remember? – pale-faced, but not under-weight, so I thought he may not have been ‘out there’ for too long.. I just want to ensure street injectors are regularly accessing clean needles, never sharing them and/or getting a legal supply of the drug of their addiction. The problem with street work is how to maintain connections with people, when cops are constantly moving them on, community wardens and/or (I hope) referred to a place of safety.

I continued “I don’t believe you don’t care about sharing needles; maybe you are just finding them hard to get hold of. Do you know pharmacies that sell them; aren’t the local outreach teams giving you clean works?”

“What’s an outreach team?” he asked, though I was still trying to devise a way in my

mind to get him down to a local methadone clinic. “How long have you been ‘out here?’

He responded long enough to know that there was never an outreach team around at this time of night giving out clean works. Well that’s for sure. It’s one of those things about drug projects. At the end of the day, the workers want a life, so opening and closing shop between 10am and 8pm is the norm, though there are a small no. of outlets in the entire huge city, who sell works when people are most likely to be buying and shooting dope. How many drug injectors have I met over the years, who have spent time simply making sure other injectors have works, ‘after hours’ as it were as they have known the pain of losing friends to AIDS, Endocarditic, Hep and more.

He kept hassling me for money and that got boring. In the end, I began to tell him what I was doing out on the streets so late also. I’d just left a internet cafe, where I’d been answering e-mail to people about safer drugs-use, AIDS treatments and/or drug policy strategies. That seemed to be about as much interest to him as a used condom would be to a dead dog! So then I got down to bizz, and told him about the thousands of people just like him all over the world, who had decided to spend their lives, preventing other IDUs from getting BBDs and/or giving peer support. That seemed a little more engaging to him…”well have you got any drugs you can give me then?” I was getting a little tired of this ongoing barrage of demands, plus it was way past my bedtime, so without much thought, I asked, “depends what drugs you mean and in case you are not aware, most of the drugs ‘we’ like are controlled drugs so under the law if we buy or sell them to one another, we are breaking the law” not that I really gave a damn about that, but I needed to know whether he was an undercover cop! Ach, street outreach in the early days of the 21st centuryL

He said he was using street heroin all the time. Our conversation about methadone fell flat fast; he said, “he just didn’t like it” to which I say, “it’s not about liking it, but it is about preventing yourself wondering the streets strung out day in day out ah?” That clearly registered but no words came out of him..

That was Camden town Autumn 2005. A few weeks later, I read that Camden had the highest no. of street users in inner London, but the smallest number of treatment slots in the borough, which makes you wonder. I had previously offered to address a small meeting in Camden that the DAT had organized trying to get support for a Safer Injection Room (SIR). I was told (2004) that wouldn’t be necessary. When I went to find out why the SIR had not been set up, I was told the key worker pushing for it Megan Jones had moved onto another job, and that it had been put on the back burner... I don’t actually believe it was as simple as that as London has never had an official SIR funded by public money. I also know that the government does not officially support them, though they were recommended by the Home affairs Select Committee (2003).

To date, in Camden Town, the Criminal Justice aspects of drugs work have won the day, while people - young and old - are often seen shooting up and/or smoking crack/heroin on doorsteps by local kids, and we wonder why the demonisation of drug dependents increases?

Where have all the street outreach workers gone?

2006 Summer


12 Steps to “Living positively with Hepatitis C”

As an illness hepatitis C can take a long time to become symptomatic, however, when it does it can affect people in many different ways, how each person reacts to this will be different. In fact everything could differ from one person to another and what they do to manage their illness will be different. However, in saying that there are some broad steps to maintaining a quality of life, says Grant McNally as well as mental health and preventing decline from setting in. Being positive may sound a cliche and also an effort but, research bears out the difference it can make to prolonging life. So much so that without it illnesses such as HCV, may speed up in their progression.

1. Take Control of Your Illness. You may think you're helpless, but you're not. Take control of your life back with a combination of information and attitude. Be a part of every decision about your treatment. Resist the urge to leave it all in your doctor's hands.
2. Insist on Options. Forget about second opinions. Look instead for second options. There are no absolutes in medicine, no inevitabilities. There are multiple solutions to every problem. You just have to find them. Don't be afraid of choices; embrace them.
3. Find the Right Doctor or Specialist. Not all doctors are created equal. When you're seriously ill, it's worth the extra effort to find the best one for your condition. It can make the difference, literally, between life and death.
4. Build A Partnership With Your Doctor. A true partnership means there are special responsibilities on both sides. Your part is to be informed about your illness so you can ask questions -- you can never ask too many questions. Your doctor's part is to answer them all, fully and patiently.
5. Recognize That All Medical Decisions Are Tradeoffs. Again, there are no right answers. Every decision regarding medical treatments involves weighing costs against benefits. To strike the right balance for you (everybody's balance is different) get all the information you can, then look carefully inside yourself and decide what really matters.
6. Sustain A Claim to Life. A good attitude -- call it optimism or "fighting spirit" or whatever -- isn't enough, no matter how positive. You have to do something. A will to live has to be accompanied by a commitment to living: join a support group, make plans, set goals; "renew your membership in life." Don’t die by duvet!!
7. Find An Advocate (Or Be Your Own). In a managed care environment, getting the best care can be a struggle. You can end up fighting your health authorities as well as your illness. If you haven't got enough fight to go around, enlist an advocate to do the fighting for you.
8. Subdue The Enemy Within. Sooner or later, you'll hear a voice question: "Why Me?" Learn to recognize self-pity and resist it. questions that never bother you; don't let this one. Not now. Another feeling to resist: guilt. Yes, loved ones are going through hell, but it's not your fault.
9. Build A Support Network. You absolutely cannot get through this alone. You have to depend on people. Family, friends, caregivers, support groups, strangers, it doesn't matter, as long as it's somebody. But don't expect more of people than is reasonable. Don't expect family or friends to change just because you're sick. Don't expect yourself to change.
10. Don't Let The Disease -- Or The Treatment -- Change Who You Are. Don't let the "I'm Still Here!" syndrome get the better of you. Denial and surrender are bad, but survival at any cost is also dangerous, just in a different way. If the disease, or the treatment, changes who you are, then you've lost the battle anyway.
11. Know When To Draw The Line. There's a line beyond which the price of survival is just too high, a line between what is worth fighting for, and what is not. Thresholds of pain vary, as well as thresholds of fear and uncertainty. Doctors often draw this line for patients; draw it for yourself.
12. Never Say Never. Everybody reacts to disease differently. Every body reacts to drugs and treatment differently. Therefore the combination will be different for everyone. Every doctor has had patients who defied all the medical textbooks and prognoses. They've all seen "hopeless" cases turn around. For all the advancements in medical knowledge, the human body remains wondrous strange-- and full of surprises.


International Drugs Policy: Setting the Agenda for UNGASS 2008:

Wilton Park Conference, Feb 2006

First a few notes about Wilton Park (in their own words.)

"W.P. Conferences cover the key political, security and economic issues confronting the world. Global concerns such as the environment and terrorism are also addressed, as well as issues like social reforms and the impact of the information revolution. Conferences are kept deliberately small, with 50-70 people present for round-the-table discussions in which everyone is encouraged to join in. Participants come from a wide range of nationalities and professions. Most are in a position to make a direct impact on policy; on average over 60% are from government. The others are mostly from NGOs, business, universities, Parliaments and the media. Nearly 80% come from outside the UK.

Wilton Park's long tradition of academic independence is guaranteed by Academic Council, and International Advisory Council of Ambassadors and High Commissioners from OECD countries in London. As an academically independent and non-profit-making Executive Agency of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Wilton Park is underwritten financially by the FCO, which also provides advice and contacts. A reduced rate may be negotiable for participants from NGOs, universities students.

There were about 70 people there from Afghanistan, Iran, Belgium, America, Holland, U.K. Portugal, Czech Republic, Italy, Norway, Australia, Greece, Germany, Columbia, Thailand, Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan and Switzerland.

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International Harm Reduction Devpt program's Mauro Guarinieri delightedly informs us of WHO decision on Methadone

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Interviewing Marco Perduca

We decided to learn more about what neo-liberalism, capitalism and anti-prohibitionism are. Here MARCO PERDUCA, member of the Transnational Radical Party/TRP, an Italian gent if I may say so, explains it all most articulately...

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