Today my son tried to take his own life. He is suffering mental health issues and drug addiction. He has now hit rock bottom. He tells me he feels he is just a dirty drug user, shamed and judged, tied of the battle, no hope.
As his mum I just see a very unwell boy. I understand the outcome of his illness may very well be death. The thing I don’t understand is if my son had cancer with the same possibility of death, his friends, family and community would rally to support him and he would not have feelings of shame and being judged. I believe as a society with our views on drug use and mental health we have added to his suffering.
Let’s now start having the hard conversation about a way forward to help and not hinder people’s precious lives, because what we have at present is not working. I am so thankful his attempt to take his life was unsuccessful and he is getting help. However, it saddens me that we lose so many and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Name has been changed.
At the level of government policy and people who have these overblown fears about addiction, they don't actually give the users enough credit for knowing a lot about drugs. They also know a lot about harm and they have a lot of good ideas. In fact, many have fuelled our best harm reduction initiatives.
So, for me, cannabis has always been kind of the beachhead for prohibition. That's why it's been fought so hard, because the idea is that, “Well, if you let cannabis through, everybody's gonna be following with more and more drugs.” And, of course, that isn't true. We know from all the surveys of young people that very few young people under 16 use cannabis very often, and much less try other drugs. One of the studies by Eric Single in America was able to show that one of the factors that helped to explain why so many people used drugs other than cannabis was because the dealers had the different drugs to offer.
So, the actual illegality of cannabis helped to promote marketing among at least some dealers; that's part of the roots of the Dutch system. They said, "Let's separate the market." They were brilliant back in 1970 or so, and it took us a long time to catch on.
So I think that's an important factor - to separate the cannabis market now and to look at the other substances that we have to worry about separately, and say, "Well, what is the right policy?" We obviously have to deal with the opioid epidemic in some way, but the demand was generated before the fentanyl started coming in because of the pharmaceutical companies' marketing that created all the Oxycontin users. And then, when their legal drugs got pulled off, some of them went to the illegal market and didn't know what they were getting.
Safe injection sites, important as they are, (and the regional ones actually were like the new forward approach), they wanted to be multi-dimensional and offer treatment for people who wanted it. But the thing is that right now, you have people dying who are middle class recreational users. I've heard from my students who know someone using cocaine, that they got fentanyl instead. They're not necessarily the group that we thought of that were gonna access the safe injection sites like in Vancouver, or in Moss Park, or places here where we know there's a larger group of marginalised drug users.
So, we have to worry about the population as a whole, and that can be what propels change, in a sense that the impetus for marijuana policy change (in the 1970s) came when we realised that middle class kids were the ones that were getting criminal records. And, like it or not, the fact that all the people who are dying of opioid overdose aren't located in our inner city poor areas, that also is an impetus that I think will start rethinking a better, more health-oriented perspective.
- Pat Erickson is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Crime and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Toronto.
I work for an organisation who support young people in their transition through “adulthood”.
Recently, a young person, age 13, who was attending our program for the second time only was caught with a couple small bags of marijuana. Because of Department of Education policies I had to report the mater to the Police. I knew little to nothing about this kid's well-being, mental health and famiy relationships. He is not coming back to our program because of this.
I really hope the intervention from the police will cause more good then harm..
Name has been changed.
My partner and I were together for nearly three decades. In our younger, wilder days we used all sorts of drugs, including heroin. As time went on, our priorities for life changed and we made the decision to stop using, which took some effort, but we got there. We had more time and ability to travel, we bought a home and did some renos, normal stuff.
And then our next exciting chapter began with a move interstate to pursue new work challenges. We loved it. As Jamie approached his milestone birthday, he talked about wanting to get stoned just one more time. It wasn't where I was at, but I understood how nice that feeling can be. We talked more but didn't decide anything. Except that Jamie decided. And when I was out of town for work, he scored some heroin, went home and used one last time.
He had no tolerance, he didn't know how strong the drugs were, and he was alone. It was a terrible, tragic error of judgement. I was called by his work colleagues who were concerned he hadn't showed up at work. I rushed back home and was greeted at our house by the police and the coroner. I had ten minutes to hold his cold body before they took him away.
I wish he didn't have to buy drugs off the street. I wish he had more information about the strength of the drugs. I wish he had somewhere to go where he wasn't alone. I wish he was still here. I miss him.
- Names have been changed.
My name is Connor and I am a student of pharmacology and neuroscience. I am a kind loving person who has never brought harm to another human being in my life. However I have been suffering from depression, anxiety and ADHD almost my whole life.
During my late teens and early twenties my mental conditions reached a level of severity that made it unbearable to live and I contemplated suicide nearly every day. I would have severe panic attacks almost daily and would have been completely unable to function if not for my use of cannabis which managed my symptoms far more effectively than any antidepressant medication and without harsh side effects. I also used psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD which could have honestly saved my life. Psychedelics opened my mind and allowed me to love myself for the first time in my life and basically cured me of my depression overnight which I had battled my whole life.
Last year I was caught by police with a relatively small amount of drugs that were for my personal use. I no longer felt the need to use drugs so often to manage symptoms and I was on my way to quitting altogether. However the police and the government believed me to be an awful person and threw me in jail, taking away a significant portion of my life which I could have spent improving myself and completing my degree. Even after I was released from prison I had a very strict curfew and was subject to weekly appointments and drug testing.
I have seen what prison does to people and it does not make them better people, it makes them worse. Prison was a traumatic time for me and it set me back a great deal of progress in my journey of healing.
There is no purpose in incarcerating and punishing people who use drugs. This is simply another way the government interferes with people's personal lives similar to the prohibition of gay marriage. It is ludicrous to think that people with no background in pharmacology, neuroscience, psychology, medicine or biochemistry are making laws in fields they are completely uneducated in. Evidence shows that alcohol and tobacco are two of the most dangerous drugs out there exceeding even the dangers of methamphetamine but they are viewed to be safe and your morality is not questioned for using these substances.
I could go on for hours on this topic but I will leave it there. It is time for the government to start looking at creating a fairer, safer and less moronic system of drug policy. It is time to end the era of victimless crimes and nonsensically ruining people's lives. Thank you
- Name has been changed.
The war on drugs.... I'm never exactly sure how to write these things up so let's give this a go. I think it's important to start with me; for me at least, I used to be one of those guys that just thought "why would anybody do drugs?" Or "people should just say no". That all changed however when I fell into my own addiction. My drug of choice, ice.
I've gone through two big stages of my addiction, both times I've managed to quit without the help of or telling anyone. I guess the law has a lot to blame for that part. You see, the problem with the law is, no matter what light you look at it in, at the end of the day people like me are nothing more than 'addicts' or 'junkies'. Throughout my addiction I've managed to keep a job, somehow managed to balance what seemed like a normal life to everyone else, I'm nothing more than a 'junkie' or 'criminal' under the law.
For me, that's been one of the biggest battles. You simply don't know who to turn to, who to trust. What if the people you think are your friends or family look at you in a different way after it? It's hard. Then you go online. Read the comments people say after a tragic overdose. 'he deserved it' or 'he shouldn't have taken it'. In a perfect world, yes. But we don't live in a perfect world and people take drugs for any number of reasons, and those attitudes, mostly made by our failed government laws and campaigns such as the lies in "ice destroys lives", continue to shape public option about us.
As I said at the start, I'm never really good at writing these up and I'm not exactly sure where to go from here. I could probably write about this all day, sadly, so I'll just finish this up here for now. Anyway, thanks for the work you guys do, I hope this bit of my story helps. Regards, Christian
- Name has been changed.