NORMAN J CLEMENT RPH., DDS, NORMAN L.CLEMENT PHARM-TECH, MALACHI F. MACKANDAL PHARMD, BELINDA BROWN-PARKER, IN THE SPIRIT OF JOSEPH SOLVO ESQ., INC.T. SPIRIT OF REV. C.T. VIVIAN, JELANI ZIMBABWE CLEMENT, BS., MBA., IN THE SPIRIT OF THE HON. PATRICE LUMUMBA, IN THE SPIRIT OF ERLIN CLEMENT SR., WALTER F. WRENN III., MD., JULIE KILLINGWORTH, LESLY POMPY MD., NANCY SEEFEDLT, WILLIE GUINYARD BS., JOSEPH WEBSTER MD., MBA, BEVERLY C. PRINCE MD., FACS., NEIL ARNAND, MD., RICHARD KAUL, MD., LEROY BAYLOR, JAY K. JOSHI MD., MBA, ADRIENNE EDMUNDSON, ESTER HYATT PH.D., WALTER L. SMITH BS., IN THE SPIRIT OF BRAHM FISHER ESQ., MICHELE ALEXANDER MD., CUDJOE WILDING BS, MARTIN NJOKU, BS., RPH., IN THE SPIRIT OF DEBRA LYNN SHEPHERD, BERES E. MUSCHETT, STRATEGIC ADVISORS
“There was a time when drug use in the UK was not considered a matter for the police and judges, but for the doctor. Then it adopted the US’s punitive approach to addiction“
Republished: AL JAZEERA, March 20, 2021
“These people are broken’: Why the UK’s war on drugs has failed”
‘The police never interrupt the supply of drugs. Never’
Years ago, Neil Woods was fighting the UK’s war on drugs on the front line. One of the most active undercover cops in the drug squad, he landed hundreds of drug dealers and gangsters in prison. He started in the early 1990s when Britain’s youth were dancing from one rave to the next, popping pills en masse. Following 20 years of criminalisation, selling drugs had become the most lucrative source of income for organised crime and the gangs resorted to increasingly violent methods to keep the money flowing.
NEIL WOOD, former undercover narcotics police officer:
” I never made society safer, and I never reduced crime. And once you understand that, it’s hard to live with.”
Woods used to hang out with drug users in parks and on street corners, making friends and getting to know the dealers. Step by step, over weeks and months, he tried to get in touch with the higher-up people in the gangs: The criminals organising the drug supply. It was a dangerous job. One time, a dealer held a Samurai sword to his throat and threatened to kill him if he turned out to be a police officer. Another time a gang member chased him in his car.
Time and time again, he managed to put entire organised crime groups behind bars. For example, the Burger Bar Boys, based in Birmingham, who controlled a large part of the drugs and weapons trade in the West Midlands – and whose quaint name stands in sharp contrast to the brutality of their methods. The gang prompted national headlines in 2003, when it attempted a “retaliation” against a rival gang in Birmingham, opening fire with a sub-machine gun on partygoers. Two innocent teenagers were killed.
Woods spent more than half a year collecting evidence against the leading members in Northampton, one of the towns into which the gang had expanded. When the bust came in 2004, 96 people were arrested. Six people involved with the heroin and crack cocaine trade in this town went to court in 2005 and, in the end, three of them went to prison for nine years, while the other three got 10 years. But, Woods believes it was all for nothing.
“I spent seven months on this operation,” Woods says via Zoom from his home in Hereford, England. He retired from the police in 2007. “I lived in constant fear; more than once I nearly got myself killed. Huge resources were put into the operation, and six of the leading gang members were arrested. But then, a week later, the leading intelligence officer called me and said: ‘Great, we’ve interrupted the drug supply in Northampton for two whole hours.’ Two hours.”
That is how long it took for other criminal organisations to step into the gap and take control of the drugs market in Northampton. This was no exception: It is how the system works, says Woods. “All the police do is to eliminate the rivals of other gangs. They never manage to interrupt the drug supply – never. Because there are always people eager to take the opportunity and make massive amounts of money.”
When he started as an undercover policeman, Woods believed he was doing good. Criminals were arrested, drugs confiscated. But the longer he was on the job, the more he realised his dangerous work did not achieve anything at all. “The war on drugs is deeply dishonest. In the papers, we see pictures of drug busts – arrested dealers, piles of seized drugs. And we have learned to see this as a success. But it’s a complete illusion.”
The only thing the police ever achieve is to make drug criminality even more brutal. “Police never reduce the size of the market, but they do change the shape of it,” says Woods. “And that change only moves in one direction: Towards more violence. Organised crime adapts all the time – gangsters become harder and more ruthless because most ruthless are the ones that rise to the top. That’s why we now have children being exploited as drug runners. This is a reaction to the success of the police.”
The victims of the war on drugs are everywhere. The addicts who waste their money and their health; the small-time dealers from poor backgrounds who are lured with the prospect of quick money; bereaved parents like Pat Hudson – and policemen like Woods. He suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), combined with a condition known as “moral injury”: “I have a deep sense of guilt because of the suffering that I have caused,” says Woods.
In his undercover years, he says, he made friends with users selling drugs on the side to finance their drug habit: People in desperate situations, who nonetheless ended up being arrested. “I have made friends for the sole purpose of manipulating people. I used my talents to get to know people and emotionally manipulate them. I have caused harm to some of the most vulnerable members of our society, to no benefit at all. I never made society safer, and I never reduced crime. And once you understand that, it’s hard to live with.”
The Liverpool model – it worked, and was promptly shut down
Like Hudson, Woods sees a change in the law as the only way out of this mess. He is a member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), a campaign made up of current and former members of the police as well as figures from the army and the intelligence services. Their aim is to reform drug policy in order to take control away from organised crime. “We want to legalise and regulate every single drug. Each drug is different and has different regulatory requirements. Heroin is the most dangerous one and causes the most deaths – but it’s the easiest to regulate by far. We simply go back to the British System,” says Woods.
Back in the 1980s, there were still remnants of this system in the UK. In Merseyside, where the economic policies of the Thatcher years had a devastating effect, the heroin crisis was deeper than in most parts of the country. In Warrington, the psychiatrist, John Marks, legally prescribed heroin. His success was stark. His patients did not have to get their supply on the black market – where drugs are often of dubious quality – but received clean heroin under hygienic conditions. They often had jobs and families. Also, in the area around Marks’s clinic, the crime rate was lower – and over the years the number of heroin addicts actually fell.
The Liverpool model found imitators around the world, for example in Switzerland. Inspired by the British doctor’s approach, Zurich opened its first Heroin Assisted Treatment clinic in 1994. “The Swiss authorities took Marks’s work as an inspiration,” says Woods. “They studied British evidence and started prescribing heroin. But the British authorities themselves ignored the work of Marks.” Funding was withdrawn, and in 1995, his treatment centre was shut.
For Woods, there is no doubt the high number of drug deaths in the UK is a direct consequence of prohibition. “It sounds a bit too simple, but it’s true: The tougher the laws in terms of criminalising drug consumption, the more people die,” he says. “Just look at the countries that have a more liberal drug policy: Portugal or Switzerland.” In Switzerland, the number of drug deaths each year has halved since the mid-1990s. In the UK, by contrast, the number of drug deaths has doubled in that time, even though the total number of users has remained largely stable.
Academics and health experts have long considered the punitive approach a failure. The present drug death crisis is exacerbated by a number of other factors, says Laura Garius, Policy Lead at the drug reform charity, Release. “Many of the people who started using heroin in the 1980s and 1990s are, by now, experiencing significant health issues, compounded by the health inequalities endured by this marginalised group, caused by its lower socioeconomic status. There is also a lack of investment in harm reduction and treatment, including a lack of accessible opioid substitution therapy, which would inevitably save lives.”
Over the past 10 years, government funding for drug treatment has shrunk dramatically. Of the 195 residential rehabilitation centres registered with the Care Quality Commission (a watchdog) in England in 2013, more than 50 had shut down by 2019. Funding cuts have been “felt both in terms of pressure to reduce the length of stay [in treatment centres] but also a lack of funding to allow people to access residential services through social services budgets – so fewer people got less treatment”, says criminologist David Best.
The alarming rise in drug deaths has led to calls for a fundamentally new approach. In 2019, the cross-party House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, which had investigated the worsening drug problem in Scotland, recommended a radical change in drug policy: Concluding that, “the criminal justice approach to people with problem drug use has failed”, its report advocated the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use as well as the provision of consumption rooms. The UK government rejected its recommendations.
Nevertheless, Hudson and Woods are by no means disheartened. In the past few years, they have seen attitudes in the country change. “We have supporters in all big parties, from the Tories to the Scottish National Party,” says Woods. Last year, he spoke at both the Labour and the Conservative Party annual conference. “A few years back, that would have been unthinkable. Drug policy reform has firmly arrived in the mainstream.”
This can also be seen in concrete new initiatives. In Middlesbrough, a Heroin Assisted Treatment clinic opened its doors in 2019 – the first such scheme in decades. It is licensed by the Home Office, which has the power to do this under current legislation and is partly funded by the local Police authority. One year after the programme started, participants said they were much healthier and had a higher quality of life. According to the clinic, there was also a significant reduction in their reoffending rates.
The contrast to other cities is stark, however. Take Glasgow, for example. The Scottish metropolis has been hit particularly hard by the ongoing drugs crisis.
In 2019 alone, more than 400 drug-related deaths were recorded there – making up nearly one-third of all Scotland’s drug casualties. Since many needles are handed from one user to the next, one-tenth of users are HIV positive – as many as back in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis.
‘These people are really broken’
Until last year, Peter Krykant worked for a charity that provides fast HIV tests for homeless drug users. He saw the crisis getting worse and worse, and he was shocked to see how little had changed since he himself was an addict living on the streets of Glasgow in the late 1990s. “People are injecting in exactly the same places as I did 20 years ago,” says Krykant, 44, via a Zoom call from his home in Falkirk. He decided to do something to help – something which is technically illegal. Through crowdfunding and with money from his own pocket, he bought a small van last summer. He went about turning it into a mobile Drug Consumption Room (DCR), equipping it with clean seats, fresh needles and disinfectant.
“We are a low-tech service,” says Krykant. “We don’t have a doctor or a dentist which a proper DCR would have. All we offer is clean material and a sterile room so that people can consume the drugs that they bring themselves. Because otherwise, they would do it in alleyways or empty buildings.” On August 31 last year, he opened his mobile consumption room, and since then he has been setting up every Friday morning in the centre of Glasgow. The demand for his service has been overwhelming.
“Some of these people are really broken,” he says. “Most suffer from childhood trauma; they were abused physically, sexually or mentally. Many live on the street or in temporary accommodation.”
There is one customer who is confined to a wheelchair because of his drug habit and could not even get into the van. Initially, his chair only had three wheels, so Krykant raised money to buy him a new one. Another regular customer is a 23-year-old woman whose arms are marked by signs of self-harm – “some of the deepest scars I’ve seen”, says Krykant. She injects heroin into her groin and lives in a tent. Up until the week before, she always came accompanied by a friend, an alcoholic. Krykant gave him a syringe with Naxolone and showed him how to use it if his friend should take an overdose. “That gave her a bit of security. But last week she came alone. I’m very worried about that.”
The drug epidemic became particularly bad after the Scottish government cut the annual budget for alcohol and drug treatment services in 2016 by about 15 million pounds ($21m), a reduction of more than 20 percent. “Two years later we saw the effects of these cuts,” says Krykant. “Our treatment centres are underfunded and understaffed. Sometimes users are only offered one half-hour session every week or even every two weeks.” It is far too little to have a lasting effect, he says.
A 2019 report by the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs highlights the particular dangers for homeless drug users: “Homeless people, particularly rough sleepers, are often poor at attending drug services and need flexible approaches such as assertive outreach,” the Council wrote. “Services already struggling to cope with demand from housed clients may not have the resources to extent ‘special’ services to homeless people.”
Krykant knows there is only so much he can do to help the estimated 500 drug addicts – most of them crack or heroin users – in central Glasgow. He sees his project as a way to raise awareness and push for political change. “We’re making a public statement. We say to the governments in Edinburgh and London: We don’t care that you’re not officially allowing this – we’re doing it anyway.” The aim, eventually, is to have an officially licensed facility.
Last year, Krykant faced a charge under the Misuse of Drugs Act because he was allegedly obstructing police trying to search drug users within his van. But in January 2021, the Crown Office – Scotland’s prosecution service – informed him he would not be charged. While Krykant welcomed the decision, he wants the authorities to go further and give the police clear instruction not to intervene in the running of his service.
The response Krykant has received for his efforts is huge. Dozens of interviews with Scottish, English and international press have propelled him into the spotlight. Politicians have started paying attention. Across the political spectrum, people have pledged their support and, in January, he even met Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland.
Krykant is an inspiration for drug reformers across the whole country, among them Hudson in Wales. “If it weren’t for the pandemic, I’d be setting up a mobile consumption room following Peter’s example,” she says. “The legal system is unlikely to arrest somebody like me for trying to save lives.”
“THANK YOU PETER and PAUL”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
CONGRESS THIS IS HOW YOU CLEAN UP THIS MESS
FOR NOW, YOU ARE WITHIN
Thanks goes out to Dr. Paul Volkman, Paul is a Physician graduate of the University of Chicago College of Medicine and holds a Ph.D in Pharmacology and is Federal Inmate Registry # 19519-424
PAUL VOLKMAN MD., PH.D.
Paul Volkman, a doctor who worked at the Tri-State Health Care and Pain Management clinic in Scioto County and has been linked to Fletcher, was found guilty by a Columbus jury and was sentenced to 4 life terms in federal prison more time than El Chappo and the Uni Bomber combine for helping distribute “millions of highly addictive drugs,” that authorities said led to nearly a dozen deaths. Rubbish!!!!!
From Doctors with Courage:
Attacking Doctors Like Paul Volkman is the Cause of the Deaths from Opioids.
It is my charge that removing doctors like Dr. Volkman from practice is the cause of these accidental drug overdoses. People in pain will take whatever they can get. And they don’t know equivalent strengths of medications, so they accidentally overdose. This is especially easy with methadone, which is cheap and available on the street.
To show that this government agenda of attacking well-meaning and professional doctors is a failure are the following statistics following the removal of Dr. Volkman from practice:
- In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes for the first time on record. This trend continued has continued through 2012.
- From 2000 to 2012, Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased 366 percent, and the increase in deaths has been driven largely by prescription drug overdoses.
- In Ohio, there were 411 fatal unintentional drug overdoses in 2000 growing to 1,914 annual deaths in 2012.
- On average approximately five people die each day in Ohio due to drug overdose.
Had Dr. Volkman been allowed to treat pain appropriately, these statistics would not be as high.