Drugventures Scene #2: “It´s time for a change”

This weeks video was filmed on a 360 camera which gives you the possibility to look around as you view the content. In case you have a Virtual Reality viewing device, like Google cardboard for instance, you can also view the video through that. But that´s enough about the format, let´s talk a bit about the content.

Like the first video, the second one also takes place in the Museum of Drug Policy, a 3-day pop up museum that was organized during weekend of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Issue (April 2016 in New York City). The museum hosted various events and  exhibitions that showcased how the War on Drug users has impacted different parts of the world.

One impact has been on how we understand and treat drug addiction. Generally people believe that the biggest factor in developing a drug addiction is the chemical properties that drugs inherently have. Use cocaine once and you´re hooked for life. The Chemical hook- theory is also emphasized when viewing addiction as a disease of the brain. The person who is addicted cannot help him or herself because their brain is craving for the next dose, and addicts will do anything to stop that craving and “get a hit”.

Simple, but also misguided. I´ve interviewed multiple people who have tried different drugs from cocaine to heroin, and none of them expressed that they couldn´t live without the chemicals. But here´s the trick; all of the “drug users” that I´ve interviewed were well off individuals who have had multiple years of higher education and although everybody has difficulties in life, most of them came from healthy  and supporting family backgrounds and they have found meaningful things to do with their lives. And this, of course, is not the case for everybody in this world.

Another way to look at drug addiction is to see it as a coping mechanism, a form of self-medication to  a tramautic life situation for which the drugs offer a temporary relief. And instead of offering these people proper treatment and care, they are actually criminalized for trying to deal with an already painful existence. If they do get into addiction treatment programmes, most of those treatments work with 12-steps or other abstinence models which require that individuals stop using the only thing that might have helped them to survive until that point. One of my interviewees mentioned a friend who had started using heroin in order to prevent herself from commiting suicide. If the other option is ending your own life, I would encourage people to find any means they can to help them survive until they can get proper help, even if that would mean heroin or some other form of chemical relief. Heroin, or diamorphine, as an opiate, is one of the most powerful pain killers that we know, and as Canadian addiction specialist Gabor Maté has argued, substances like heroin are also used for emotional pain.

Ben Sessa, a childhood psychiatrist from the UK, spoke in 2015 at the Breaking Convention– a biannual psychedelic conference which he has helped to organize since the beginning. As a childhood psychiatrist he has witnessed plenty of traumatic life stories which propably go beyond anything most of us have had to experience. In his presentation he pointed out that we have plenty of sympathy for children who experience trauma in their life, whether from sexual, physical or other forms of abuses, but for some reason we lose that sympathy when those same children become adults and sometimes deal with that trauma with the use of drugs.

So one of the main messages I hope to express with this particular video, is that it is time for a change; change the way we view people who use drugs and change the way we treat them. Instead of criminalizing them, and therefore making their already difficult situation even worse, we should try to offer them sympathy and connection so they could feel like they are part of the society. Not saying this would be easy, but a definite improvement to the current approaches.

We need to change the current system from criminal policy to social and health policy.

Feel like being part of that change? In Finland you can become a member of Humaania Päihdepolitiikkaa Ry, an NGO in Finland that works towards more humane drug policy.

In the USA, you can reach out to organizations like Drug Policy Alliance and Students for Sensitive Drug Policy.

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