What is happening to the city of Vancouver? Who is responsible for the surge in violent crime? And is the introduction of a “safe supply” of toxic drugs, including heroin and cocaine, really the solution the city needs? Here’s what you need to know
Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use conducted over 5,000 interviews with 1,152 people who used heroin and other drugs and reported chronic pain at some point from June 2014 to June 2017.
The participants were largely from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and lead author M-J Milloy said the study aimed to discover “new interventions” that might “lower or address the risk of overdose” in heavy opioid users.
More than 12,800 apparent opioid-related deaths occurred in Canada between January 2016, when the federal government started tracking the data, and March 2019, according to the latest available statistics from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Milloy said chronic pain is one of the “driving factors” of the opioid crisis, adding that many who can’t get effective pain relief can turn to the black market for opioids.
“This is the population that’s really suffering the worst burden of mortality in the crisis,” he said. “And there’s been some work suggesting that cannabis might be beneficial in the overdose crisis. So we’ve really tried to use our data to figure out if that is true.”
What they found was that daily cannabis use was associated with significantly lower odds of daily illicit opioid use, suggesting cannabis may serve as a substitute treatment in people with chronic pain.
The story went viral online this week and was picked up in publications in Canada and overseas, including the Daily Mail and The Sun in the U.K.
While a spokesperson for the university says he receives no funding from any industry group, it is worth noting the cannabis company contributed $2.5 million to UBC and BCCSU for the professorship and research.
Milloy said the fact that his study looked at daily cannabis use raised a “valid concern” about the risk of addiction, but added it’s also linked to therapeutic benefits.
“A lot of people who are benefiting from cannabis are the people who are using it every day,” he said.
“We are very aware of the risk of harms. And I want to emphasize that none of us think that cannabis is a panacea or a silver bullet to knock out the overdose crisis. What we do think, though, is that it has tremendous potential.”
Conflicting research raises questions
A day after the UBC study was published, researchers at McMaster Universitypublished a review of almost 30 years’ worth of data in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that examined the use of cannabis as a replacement drug for people with opioid addictions.
Researchers looked at six studies involving 3,676 participants dating back to 1991 in an effort to determine the effects of cannabis use on opioid addiction during methadone treatment.
What they found was starkly different than the UBC study — there is no consensus among studies that cannabis use is associated with reduced opioid use.
“There’s a lot of hype and interest and hope that this could be a replacement. Could this be helping people with chronic pain or with opioid addiction?” said senior author Dr. Zainab Samaan, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster.
Sharp rise in fentanyl overdose deaths, ADHD-drug-induced psychosis, prescription drug rationing due to cost
A week rarely passes without the publication of a major study documenting the misery unleashed on Americans by the US pharmaceutical industry and its rapacious drive for profits.
Earlier this month a study analyzing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data found that more than 150,000 Americans died from alcohol and drug-induced fatalities and suicide in 2017, the highest number ever recorded.
The biggest factor in this shocking number of “deaths of despair” were drug overdoses, in particular from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. While illicitly manufactured fentanyl and related drugs are now responsible for increasing numbers of deadly overdoses, blame for the rising rates of opioid addiction lies with Big Pharma, which has flooded neighborhoods across the country with prescription opioids, fully aware of their addictive and potentially deadly properties.
A Boston trial beginning in January heard testimony of how Insys Therapeutics executives pushed prescription narcotics through bribing doctors to prescribe an addictive fentanyl nasal spray.
Also in January, portions made public of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts allege that one of the founders of Purdue Pharma, who developed OxyContin, said in 1996 on the debut of the opioid painkiller that it would “be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.” Dr. Richard Sackler, whose family developed OxyContin, wrote at the time that they would push the drug by vilifying its addicted victims. “They are the culprits and the problem,” the email read. “They are reckless criminals.”
2011–2016: Fentanyl overdose deaths soar
A study released Thursday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) provided more grim detail on overdose deaths from fentanyl. In 2011–2012, fentanyl was involved in roughly 1,600 overdose deaths in the US in both years. From 2012 through 2014, fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled each year. By 2016, deaths attributed to fentanyl had skyrocketed to more than 18,335, a tenfold increase over 2011–2012 .
While researchers found exponential increases in fatal fentanyl overdoses among all age groups, the largest average annual percent change occurred among young adults aged 25–34 and 15–24. Men are dying from opioid overdoses at nearly three times the rate of women. Overdose deaths are also increasing faster among blacks and Latinos.
Fentanyl can be 50 times more powerful than heroin. It can shut down breathing in less than a minute. It is more likely to cause an overdose than heroin due to its potency and also because the high fades more quickly than with heroin, which means drug users may inject it more frequently, increasing the risk of overdose.
The New England states—Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont—saw the largest increase in fentanyl overdose deaths, with a 102.2 percent increaseper year from 2011 to 2016. This compares to the region comprising Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, which saw a very small annual increase. Although researchers had no firm explanation for these geographical disparities, one theory is that it is easier to mix a few white fentanyl crystals into the powdered form of heroin that is more popular in the eastern part of the country.
Newly prescribed ADHD medications may cause psychosis
Published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine was a study that found that certain medications used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in teens and young adults may be more likely to cause psychosis, including symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, delusions and hearing voices.
Researchers found that patients ages 13 to 25 who had been newly prescribed amphetamines, such as Adderall and Vyvanse were more likely to develop psychosis than those prescribed methylphenidates, such as Ritalin and Concerta.
The rate of psychosis with either class of medications is relatively rare, occurring in one in 660, according to researchers. However, the CDC estimates that 11 percent of US children ages 4 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD, making the potential pool of patients very large. While the study’s findings only showed the relationship between newly prescribed medications and psychosis, with over 3.5 million children currently taking an ADHD drug, this still amounts to tens of thousands of patients at risk each year.
According to data from IMS Health, US prescriptions to treat ADHD rose from 67.4 million in 2010 to 87.5 million in 2015. Sales of ADHD medications rose from $7.9 billion to $11.2 billion during this same period, a more than 40 percent increase.
Doctors are also prescribing these medications off-label for those who don’t have an ADHD diagnosis. Nonmedical use of ADHD medications on college campuses is exploding, with students obtaining the drugs from friends or family with a prescription, by obtaining a prescription by claiming to have ADHD, or from classmates selling their own prescriptions.
In these cases, the companies selling the drugs—including Shire and Teva—are profiting off of the use of “study drugs” on campuses across the country. Students dealing with the scramble for grades under the pressure of student debt, working in addition to studying, and competing for dwindling job opportunities upon graduation, are using the drugs to help them pull all-nighters to ace exams.
The drug companies are always striving to increase the appeal of their products, through consumer targeted advertising and other means. In 2016, the FDA approved Adzenys, a fruity-flavored film from Neos Therapeutics that dissolves in the mouth. The portability, convenience and tasty delivery increase the risk of abuse of the potentially addictive drug, not to mention the danger of psychosis documented in the study published in NEJM.
One-third of uninsured adults don’t take drugs as prescribed due to cost
An NCHC Data Brief published in the center’s March 2019 edition examined the strategies used by adults aged 18-64 to reduce the costs of prescription medications. In 2017, those who were uninsured were far more likely to take measures to cut costs than those with either private insurance or Medicaid.
To reduce the burden of skyrocketing drug prices, the uninsured asked their doctors to prescribe a cheaper medication, used “alternative therapies” to manage their conditions, or did not take their medication as prescribed. More than 33 percent of uninsured adults did not take their medications as prescribed by their doctor, by either leaving their prescription unfilled, dividing doses or spreading them out.
Those living under 400 percent of the poverty line—about $65,000 for a two-person household—are much more likely to be uninsured. With 12 percent of adults aged 18-64 uninsured, millions of Americans are forgoing prescription drugs due to cost, endangering their health and, potentially, their lives. This is but another demonstration of the incompatibility of the for-profit health system in the US, which places the cash hoards of Big Pharma executives over the well-being of the population, particularly its most vulnerable.
Drug overdoses led to more deaths in the U.S. in 2017 than any year on record and were the leading cause of death in the country, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report issued Friday.
More than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to the NIH — about 200 per day. That number is more than four times the number who died in 1999 from drug abuse: 16,849.
The figures are up about 15 percent from 63,632 drug-related deaths in 2016.
Since 2011, more people have died from drug overdoses than by gun violence, car accidents, suicide, or homicide, the DEA report stated.
In 2017, 40,100 people died in vehicle incidents; 15,549 were fatally shot, not including suicide; 17,284were homicide victims, though an unspecified portion of this number includes gunshot victims; and nearly 45,000 committed suicide.
The DEA attributed last year’s uptick in deaths to a spike in opioid-related fatalities. The agency said 49,060 people died as a result of abusing opioids, up from 42,249 in 2016.
Of those opioid deaths, synthetic opioids were responsible for nearly 20,000. More people died from them than heroin. The DEA report said synthetic fentanyl and comparable types of drugs are cheaper than heroin, making them more attractive to buyers.
The DEA also found heroin-related drug overdoses had doubled from 2013 to 2016 because manufacturers illegally producing synthetic fentanyl have laced the heroin with opioids.
President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “national emergency” in October 2017. Last month, he signed a comprehensive bill that included $8.5 billion in funding for related projects to reduce addiction and deaths.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions noted one positive trend in the study.
“Preliminary data from the CDC shows that drug overdose deaths actually began to decline in late 2017 and opioid prescriptions fell significantly,” Sessions said in a statement.
By Marco Chown Oved, Investigative Reporter Robert Cribb, Investigative Reporter Carolyn Jarvis, Global News Chelsea Lecce, Ryerson School of Journalism Andrew Bailey, Data Analysis
Mon., Sept. 24, 2018
A burly man wearing a clown mask walks into a pharmacy. Brandishing a large knife, he heads straight for the dispensing counter and hands the pharmacist a note.
The pharmacist, Waseem Shaheen, opens the narcotics safe and fills a white garbage bag with fentanyl patches while the impatient robber waves his knife threateningly.
Shaheen hands over the bag and drops to his knees, hands in the air as the clown robber thrusts the knife through the air a few more times before beating a hasty retreat.
“I got robbed,” Shaheen told a 911 operator minutes later.
“What was taken?” the operator asked.
Only this was no robbery at all.
It was a charade, concocted by Shaheen to cover up an illicit drug-dealing operation in which he trafficked at least 5,000 fentanyl patches out the back door of his Ottawa pharmacy.
While the provincial government monitors the prescribing and dispensing of opioids in Ontario, no alarms were raised by the conspicuous volumes moving through Shaheen’s pharmacy.
In fact, those oversight and tracking systems haven’t caught a single drug dealing pharmacist in the last five years, a Toronto Star/Global News/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation has found. Instead, every pharmacist caught dealing drugs was, like Shaheen, done in by bad luck or good police work.
In the end, Shaheen was charged, convicted and sentenced to a 14-year prison term only after he called the police to report the robbery himself. He is appealing.
Listen to the 911 call
After compiling and analyzing disciplinary records from the Ontario College of Pharmacists between 2013 and 2017, the investigation found 241 pharmacists who have put massive amounts of deadly opioids onto the street; defrauded the provincial drug benefit plan for millions of dollars; sexually harassed and assaulted their patients and employees; and committed fatal dispensing errors.
While this represents just 1.5 per cent of the more than 16,000 pharmacists in the province, the investigation found this even small number of health-care professionals can cause a disproportionate amount of harm to patients and to the public purse.
“Most pharmacists are tremendous people. They’re knowledgeable, they’re extremely helpful and they are an important part of the health-care team. The very small number of pharmacists, or doctors for that matter, who engage in this sort of behaviour, cause a lot of harm,” said Dr. David Juurlink, professor of pharmacology at the University of Toronto.
During those five years, the college sanctioned 15 pharmacists for illegally dealing prescription medication, nine of whom dealt opioids. Health Canada data suggests the actual number could be far greater because there are more drugs missing from pharmacies than prosecutions and disciplinary cases can account for.
Nearly 3.5 million doses of prescription drugs disappeared from Ontario pharmacies from 2013 to 2017, the data shows. And the growth is startling: from about 2,200 reports of drug losses in 2013 to more than 30,000 last year. The vast majority of those losses were dangerous opioids.
For example, annual reported losses of hydromorphone — a opioid five times more potent than morphine — rose from about 21,000 to 63,000 tablets in the five years, totalling more than 200,000 tablets missing from pharmacy shelves.
Three-quarters of reports listed the reason for the drug losses as “unexplained.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott declined an interview request for this story but spokesperson Hayley Chazan sent a statement:
“Our government takes patient safety very seriously. The inappropriate use, abuse and diversion of prescription narcotics and controlled substances are very serious public health concerns,” the statement read. “Minister Elliott will continue to work with partners to discuss harm reduction strategies and ensure those struggling with addiction get the help they need.”
While sources of street opioids vary, and most are illegally imported, the morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone and fentanyl that originates in the health care system is an alarming trend.
Opioid-related deaths in Ontario have almost doubled in the last five years, rising from 639 in 2013 to 1,265 in 2017, according to Public Health Ontario. More than 70 per cent of opioid deaths involve fentanyl, according to federal data.
“It’s quite often the case that people who end up with opioid addiction, who are at a very high risk of death, began with experimentation on a pill that was prescribed to someone else,” Juurlink said. “Aside from being criminal and deeply unethical, a pharmacist who introduces large amounts of opioids into society — or any other drug prone to abuse — is perpetuating harm in a very real way.”
The police investigation into Shaheen found that he trafficked more than 5,000 fentanyl patches with a street value of over $1 million.
Each patch is typically cut into four before being sold to an addict who eats, smokes or injects the contents. And because of its potency, each quarter patch could kill anyone who doesn’t have a high tolerance for opioids.
After discovering that an assistant in his pharmacy had reported the large orders of patches in his store to the college of pharmacists, Shaheen scrambled to cover his tracks.
“The robbery accomplished exactly what Mr. Shaheen had sought. It allowed him to falsely claim that a large amount of fentanyl had been stolen, an amount that he knew had not been taken,” Judge Robert Wadden said at Shaheen’s sentencing.
“As a trained professional, he would have been aware of the debilitating and deadly effects of this drug in the hands of addicts. Yet he conducted a drug trafficking scheme worth over a million dollars, profiting off the misery of others.”
Two days before the robbery, Shaheen met the man to whom he had been selling the patches in a McDonald’s.
“I need your help,” Shaheen told Mehdi Rostaee.
“Can you send somebody to the pharmacy … when I am there?” Shaheen asked. “I will give him whatever I have in the safe,”
“OK,” said Rostaee, whose surreptitious recording of the conversation was entered into evidence during Shaheen’s trial last October. “When do you want to do it?”
“Sunday,” Shaheen responded.
“You’re alone?” asked Rostaee.
“Yeah … We have to be smart and natural about it.”
Ottawa police who arrived the afternoon of the faked robbery in October 2014 described Shaheen as “scared” and “very stressed.”
In 2017, some Americans could buy legal marijuana almost as easily as they could order a pizza. Pot shops outnumber Starbucks stores in states like Colorado and Oregon, and medical marijuana delivery services drop the drug off at people’s doors in California and Massachusetts.
With marijuana now more accessible – legally – than ever, more researchers are weighing in on its health effects. But that doesn’t mean we fully understand the plant or its impacts.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a massive report in January that gives one of the most comprehensive looks – and certainly the most up-to-date – at exactly what we know about the science of cannabis. The committee behind the report, representing top universities around the country, considered more than 10,000 studies for its analysis and drew nearly 100 conclusions. Many of those findings are summarized below.
In the short term, marijuana can make your heart race.
Within a few minutes of inhaling marijuana, your heart rate can increase by between 20 and 50 beats a minute. This can last anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The report from the National Academies found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis might increase the overall risk of a heart attack. The same report, however, also found some limited evidence that smoking could be a trigger for a heart attack.
Marijuana’s effects on the heart could be tied to effects on blood pressure, but the link needs more research.
Research suggests this is a poor assumption – and one that could have interfered with the study’s results. According to a recent survey, about 52% of Americans have tried cannabis at some point, yet only 14% used the drug at least once a month.
Other studies have come to the opposite conclusion. According to the Mayo Clinic, using cannabis could result in decreased – not increased – blood pressure.
So while there’s probably a link between smoking marijuana and high blood pressure, there’s not enough research yet to say that one leads to the other.
Marijuana use affects the lungs but doesn’t seem to increase the risk of lung cancer.
People who smoke marijuana regularly are more likely to experience chronic bronchitis, according to the report from the National Academies. There’s also evidence that stopping smoking relieves these symptoms.
Perhaps surprisingly, the report’s authors found moderate evidence that cannabis was not connected to an increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers associated with smoking cigarettes.
Marijuana may help relieve some types of pain.
Marijuana contains cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical that is not responsible for getting you high but is thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects. Those benefits can include pain relief or potential treatment for certain kinds of childhood epilepsy.The report from the National Academies also found conclusive or substantial evidence – the most definitive levels – that cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, which could have to do with both CBD and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Pain is “by far the most common” reason people request medical marijuana, according to the report.
Marijuana may not be the “gateway drug” that opponents make it out to be.
“In the words of researcher Timothy Alexander Guzman: “who owns the planes and the ships that transport 90% percent of the world’s heroin from Afghanistan to the rest of the world in the first place? It sure isn’t the Taliban”.”
In his 2018 State of the Union Address, president Trump expresses concern regarding both the opioid crisis as well as the dramatic increase in heroin addiction in America, without analyzing the underlying causes.
Trump State of Union Address:
…”In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses: 174 deaths per day. Seven per hour. We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.
My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need. The struggle will be long and difficult — but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.” (Trump State of the Union, emphasis added)
Trump brings to the forefront the story of the Holets family of New Mexico:
“Ryan Holets is 27 years old, and an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. He is here tonight with his wife Rebecca. Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she did not know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.
In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: “You will do it — because you can.” He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.
Ryan and Rebecca: You embody the goodness of our Nation. Thank you, and congratulations.” (Trump State of the Union, emphasis added)
Beautiful narrative. The Nation weeps, Ryan was interviewed on CNN. While he and his family take a courageous stance against heroin addiction, Trump sheds crocodile tears.
While Trump acknowledges that “there’s a drug epidemic the likes of which we have never seen in this country”, his national public health emergency plan fails to address the underlying causes. Getting “tougher on drug dealers and pushers” involved in the retail sale of heroin does not resolve the drug crisis.
The unspoken truth is that the surge in heroin addiction in America has been spearheaded by the US led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.
Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World’s illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since 2001. In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons.
The Taliban Opium Eradication Program
Barely acknowledged by the mainstream media, in 2000-2001 the Taliban government –with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) – implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meagre 185 tons.
It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program.
This year’s production  is around 185 tons. This is down from the 3300 tons last year , a decrease of over 94 per cent. Compared to the record harvest of 4700 tons two years ago, the decrease is well over 97 per cent.
Any decrease in illicit cultivation is welcomed, especially in cases like this when no displacement, locally or in other countries, took place to weaken the achievement”
(Remarks on behalf of UNODC Executive Director at the UN General Assembly, Oct 2001)
The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin.
What motivated the US-led war on Afghanistan, which had been planned several months prior to the 9/11 attacks?
Did the US-NATO led War against Afghanistan serve to restore the illicit heroin trade?
There were 189,000 heroin users in the US in 2001, before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan. By 2012-13, there were 3.8 million heroin users in the US according to a study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Extrapolating the 2012-2013 figures (see graph below), one can reasonably confirm that the number of heroin users today (including addicts and casual users) is well in excess of four million.
In 20o1, 1,779 Americans were killed as a result of heroin overdose. By 2016, the number of Americans killed as a result of heroin addiction shot up to 15,446. (see graph below)
“My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic” says Donald Trump.
My message to Donald Trump: Those lives would have been saved had the US and its NATO allies NOT invaded and occupied Afghanistan.
Since 2001, the use of heroin in the US has increased more than 20 times.
Is there a correlation between heroin addiction in America and the dramatic increase in opium production which occurred in the immediate wake of the US-NATO October 2001 invasion?
Who is protecting opium exports out of Afghanistan?
Amply documented, the opium economy in Afghanistan was set up by the CIA in 1979.
As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money. “Dirty money” was recycled –through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies–, into “covert money,” used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath. According to a 1991 Time Magazine report:
“Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer. (“The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22. emphasis added)
Alfred McCoy’s study confirms that within two years of the onslaught of the CIA’s covert operation in Afghanistan in 1979,
“the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand. In Pakistan, the heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979 to 1.2 million by 1985, a much steeper rise than in any other nation.”
“CIA assets again controlled this heroin trade. As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During this decade of wide-open drug-dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests. (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).
Heroin: “Supply Creates its Own Demand”?
While the number of heroin users in America has increased about 20 times (2001-2016), the cultivation and production of opium used to produce heroin increased 41 times (2001-2017): 8000 hectares in 2001 rising to 328,000 hectares in 2017.
In 2017, ironically coinciding with the influx of more US troops into Afghanistan, the areas under opium poppy cultivation according to UNODC increased by 83 percent in a single year, (see Figure 1 above)
While the supply-demand relationship is complex: the dramatic increase in the consumption of heroin would not have been possible without a concurrent increase in the production of opium from 183 metric tons in 2001 to an estimated 9000 metric tons in 2017 (a 49 fold increase in relation to 2001).
It stands to reason that the increase in heroin usage could not have occurred without a corresponding surge in opium production.
Needless to say, the drug trade is a multibillion dollar operation which has been supported by successive US administrations. The unspoken truth is that US foreign policy is supporting this lucrative trade:
The heroin business is not “filling the coffers of the Taliban” as claimed by US government and the international community: quite the opposite! The proceeds of this illegal trade are the source of wealth formation, largely reaped by powerful business/criminal interests within the Western countries. …
The UNODC confirms in its 2017 Report that: “Only a small share of the revenues generated by the cultivation and trafficking of Afghan opiates reaches Afghan drug trafficking groups. Many more billions of dollars are made from trafficking opiates into major consumer markets, mainly in Europe and Asia.” The earnings generated by 9000 metric tons of opium are colossal, in the hundreds of billions. 9000 tons produces 900 tons of pure heroin.
These global proceeds accrue to business syndicates, intelligence agencies, organized crime, financial institutions, wholesalers, retailers, etc. involved directly or indirectly in the drug trade. Moreover, a large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is linked to the trade in narcotics.
Drug trafficking constitutes “the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade.”
Are US military planes being used to export opioids out of Afghanistan? US occupation forces have been instructed to turn a blind eye? According to Abby Martin,
“…there is no conclusive proof that the CIA is physically running opium out of Afghanistan. However, it’s hard to believe that a region under full US military occupation – with guard posts and surveillance drones monitoring the mountains of Tora Bora – aren’t able to track supply routes of opium exported from the country’s various poppy farms (you know, the ones the US military are guarding).”
In the words of researcher Timothy Alexander Guzman: “who owns the planes and the ships that transport 90% percent of the world’s heroin from Afghanistan to the rest of the world in the first place? It sure isn’t the Taliban”.
The original source of this article is Global Research
In a bid to assist addicts, rather than lock users in cages, Norway’s parliament voted last week to decriminalize all drugs — citing Portugal and its general success lowering addiction and incarceration rates, getting those who need it into treatment, and drastically reducing crime and other issues related to the illegality of substances for personal use — thus, becoming the first Scandinavian nation to do so.
Four major political parties campaigned in favor of the revolutionary shift in policy, and a majority vote in Storting, Norwegian parliament, brought to fruition their efforts to, as Nicolas Wilkinson, health spokesman for the Socialist Left (SV) party, explained, “stop punishing people who struggle, but instead give them help and treatment.”
“It is important to emphasise that we do not legalise cannabis and other drugs, but we decriminalise,” Storting Health Committee Deputy Chairman Sveinung Stensland told national publication, VG.
“The change will take some time, but that means a changed vision: those who have a substance abuse problem should be treated as ill, and not as criminals with classical sanctions such as fines and imprisonment.”
The Independentreports the parties backing the measure included the Conservatives (Hoyre), Liberals (Venstre), the Labor Party (Ap), and the Socialist Left (SV) — with those voting in favor of full decriminalization directing the Norwegian government to reform its drug policies accordingly.
It wasn’t just the relative success in Portugal that motivated Norwegian politicians to act in addicts’ better interests, but Norway’s own timid experimentations with decriminalization.
Newsweekreports of the historic vote, “It’s a big next step for the Scandinavian country, which has been dancing around the possibility of decriminalization for several years. In 2006, it started to test a program that would sentence drug users to treatment programs, rather than jail, in the cities Bergen and Oslo. In early 2016, the country gave Norwegian courts the option to do this on a national level.”
“The goal is that more addicts will rid themselves of their drug dependency and fewer will return to crime,” Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, quoted byNewsweek, asserted at the time. “But if the terms of the programme are violated, the convicts must serve an ordinary prison term.”
In the broadest strokes, this mimicked what Portuguese officials initiated on July 1, 2001, with its groundbreaking — indeed, all but unheard of at the time — decision to offer compassion and effective patient care for addicts wanting treatment, while saying no to the U.S.-led and utterly failed planetary war on drugs.
Micelaborated on Portugal’s policies in February 2015, “If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.”
With nonviolent drug offenders cramped into overcrowded prisons, decriminalization frees space for violent criminals and others most traditionally given lengthy prison terms, while clearing overstuffed court dockets and freeing resources needed in other areas of law enforcement.
Portugal had experienced the worst of opioid crises and the highest proportion of drug-related AIDS deaths in the European Union prior to mass decriminalization, notes the Independent — which notes the nation now ranks second lowest in the same for all drug-related deaths.
Further, as journalist Glenn Greenwald, who authored an oft-cited Cato Institute white paper, Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies, published in April 2009, reiterated for Newsweek two years ago, “none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for ‘drug tourists’ — has occurred.”
Nonetheless, decriminalization hasn’t garnered unanimous support among parliament — detractors cite both legitimate and propagandically false information in argument — and concerns linger over the ostensive message sent to criminals, addicts, and users, when punitive measures are considerably loosened.
Portugal, the Netherlands, Uruguay, and a smattering of locations and cultures around the world — and, now, Norway — have opted for the common sense and proven efficacious treatment of addicts as patients in medical need, instead of wholly useless punishment and incarceration.
Although a smattering of articles in the international press reporting on decriminalization in Norway included ‘several U.S. states’ among those having loosened drug laws, it must be noted the legalization and decriminalization measures in various states — and, almost exclusively pertaining to cannabis, only — come weighted with governmental red tape and sticky fingers in the form of questionable taxation codes, restrictions, and more. And the United States remains gripped in the dark vortex of a spiraling opioid crisis — a situation mirroring that of Portugal years ago.
In September, economist and professor, Jeffrey Miron, of Harvard University and the Cato Institute, opined for Fortune the probable benefits should America choose to examine the crisis sans the goggles of decades of anti-drug propaganda, asking, “Could Legalizing All Drugs Solve America’s Opioid Crisis?”
Miron concludes, appropriately, “Around the world, liberal drug policies have had great success in reducing the harms from drug addiction, such as HIV and overdoses. Faced with a raging opioid crisis, the U.S. would be wise to model its own drug policy after countries that have undergone similar experiences.”
Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen.
After fighting the longest war in its history, the US stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How could this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for more than 16 years – deploying more than 100,000 troops at the conflict’s peak, sacrificing the lives of nearly 2,300 soldiers, spending more than $1tn (£740bn) on its military operations, lavishing a record $100bn more on “nation-building”, helping fund and train an army of 350,000 Afghan allies – and still not be able to pacify one of the world’s most impoverished nations? So dismal is the prospect of stability in Afghanistan that, in 2016, the Obama White House cancelled a planned withdrawal of its forces, ordering more than 8,000 troops to remain in the country indefinitely.
In the American failure lies a paradox: Washington’s massive military juggernaut has been stopped in its steel tracks by a small pink flower – the opium poppy. Throughout its three decades in Afghanistan, Washington’s military operations have succeeded only when they fit reasonably comfortably into central Asia’s illicit traffic in opium – and suffered when they failed to complement it.
It was during the cold war that the US first intervened in Afghanistan, backing Muslim militants who were fighting to expel the Soviet Red Army. In December 1979, the Soviets occupied Kabul in order to shore up their failing client regime; Washington, still wounded by the fall of Saigon four years earlier, decided to give Moscow its “own Vietnam” by backing the Islamic resistance. For the next 10 years, the CIA would provide the mujahideen guerrillas with an estimated $3bn in arms. These funds, along with an expanding opium harvest, would sustain the Afghan resistance for the decade it would take to force a Soviet withdrawal. One reason the US strategy succeeded was that the surrogate war launched by the CIA did not disrupt the way its Afghan allies used the country’s swelling drug traffic to sustain their decade-long struggle.
Despite almost continuous combat since the invasion of October 2001, pacification efforts have failed to curtail the Taliban insurgency, largely because the US simply could not control the swelling surplus from the country’s heroin trade. Its opium production surged from around 180 tonnes in 2001 to more than 3,000 tonnes a year after the invasion, and to more than 8,000 by 2007. Every spring, the opium harvest fills the Taliban’s coffers once again, funding wages for a new crop of guerrilla fighters.
At each stage in its tragic, tumultuous history over the past 40 years – the covert war of the 1980s, the civil war of the 90s and its post-2001 occupation – opium has played a central role in shaping the country’s destiny. In one of history’s bitter ironies, Afghanistan’s unique ecology converged with American military technology to transform this remote, landlocked nation into the world’s first true narco-state – a country where illicit drugs dominate the economy, define political choices and determine the fate of foreign interventions.
During the 1980s, the CIA’s secret war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan helped transform the Afghani-Pakistani borderlands into a launchpad for the global heroin trade. “In the tribal area,” the US state department reported in 1986, “there is no police force. There are no courts. There is no taxation. No weapon is illegal … Hashish and opium are often on display.” By then, the process of guerrilla mobilisation to fight the Soviet occupation was long under way. Instead of forming its own coalition of resistance leaders, the CIA had relied on Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and its Afghan clients, who soon became key players in the burgeoning cross-border opium traffic.
The CIA looked the other way while Afghanistan’s opium production grew from about 100 tonnes annually in the 1970s to 2,000 tonnes by 1991. In 1979 and 1980, just as the CIA effort was beginning to ramp up, a network of heroin laboratories opened along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier. That region soon became the world’s largest heroin producer. By 1984, it supplied a staggering 60% of the US market and 80% of the European. Inside Pakistan, the number of heroin addicts surged from near zero (yes, zero) in 1979 to 5,000 in 1980, and 1.3 million by 1985 – a rate of addiction so high the UN termed it “particularly shocking”.
According to a 1986 state department report, opium “is an ideal crop in a war-torn country since it requires little capital investment, is fast growing and is easily transported and traded”. Moreover, Afghanistan’s climate was well suited to growing poppies. As relentless warfare between CIA and Soviet surrogates took its toll, Afghan farmers began to turn to opium “in desperation”, since it produced “high profits” that could cover rising food prices. At the same time, the state department reported that resistance elements took up opium production and trafficking “to provide staples for [the] population under their control and to fund weapons purchases”.
As the mujahideen guerrillas gained ground against the Soviet occupation and began to create liberated zones inside Afghanistan in the early 1980s, the resistance helped fund its operations by collecting taxes from peasants who grew the lucrative opium poppies, particularly in the fertile Helmand valley. Caravans carrying CIA arms into that region for the resistance often returned to Pakistan loaded down with opium – sometimes, reported the New York Times, “with the assent of Pakistani or American intelligence officers who supported the resistance”.
Charles Cogan, a former director of the CIA’s Afghan operation, later spoke frankly about the agency’s choices. “Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets,” he told an interviewer in 1995. “We didn’t really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade. I don’t think that we need to apologise for this … There was fallout in term of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.”
Over the longer term, the US intervention produced a black hole of geopolitical instability that would never again be sealed or healed. Afghanistan could not readily recover from the unprecedented devastation it suffered in the years of the first American intervention. As the Soviet-Afghan war wound down between 1989 and 1992, the Washington-led alliance essentially abandoned the country, failing either to sponsor a peace settlement or finance reconstruction.
While Washington turned away from Afghanistan to other foreign policy hotspots in Africa and the Persian Gulf, a vicious civil war broke out in a country that had already suffered, between 1979 and 1989, some 1.5 million dead, about 10% of the country’s population. During the years of civil strife among the many well-armed warlords the CIA had left primed to fight for power, Afghan farmers raised the only crop that ensured instant profits: the opium poppy. Having multiplied twentyfold during the covert-war era of the 1980s, the opium harvest would more than double again during the civil war of the 1990s.
In this period of turmoil, opium’s ascent is best understood as a response to severe damage from two decades of destructive warfare. With the return of some three million refugees to a war-ravaged land, the opium fields were an employment godsend, requiring nine times as many labourers to cultivate as wheat, the country’s traditional staple. In addition, only opium merchants were capable of accumulating capital rapidly enough to be able to provide poor poppy farmers with much-needed cash advances, which often provided more than half their annual income. That credit would prove critical to the survival of many impoverished villagers.
In the civil war’s first phase, from 1992 to 1994, ruthless local warlords combined arms and opium in a countrywide struggle for power. Later, Pakistan threw its backing behind a newly arisen Pashtun force, the Taliban. After seizing Kabul in 1996 and taking control of much of the country, the Taliban regime encouraged local opium cultivation, offering government protection to the export trade and collecting much-needed taxes on both the opium harvested and the heroin manufactured. UN opium surveys showed that, during the Taliban’s first three years in power, Afghanistan’s opium crop accounted for 75% of world production.
In July 2000, however, as a devastating drought entered its second year and hunger spread across Afghanistan, the Taliban government suddenly ordered a ban on all opium cultivation, in an apparent appeal for international acceptance. A subsequent UN crop survey of 10,030 villages found that this prohibition had reduced the harvest by 94%.
Three months later, in September 2000, the Taliban sent a delegation to UN headquarters in New York to trade upon the country’s continuing drug prohibition in a bid for diplomatic recognition. Instead, the UN imposed new sanctions on the regime for protecting Osama bin Laden. The US, on the other hand, actually rewarded the Taliban with $43m in humanitarian aid, even as it seconded UN criticism over Bin Laden. Announcing this aid in May 2001, secretary of state Colin Powell praised “the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome”, but still urged the regime to end “their support for terrorism; their violation of internationally recognised human rights standards, especially their treatment of women and girls”.
After largely ignoring Afghanistan for a decade, Washington “rediscovered” the country in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In October 2001, the US began bombing the country, and then, with the support of British forces, launched an invasion spearheaded by local warlords. The Taliban regime collapsed with a speed that surprised many government officials. In retrospect, it seems likely that its opium prohibition was a crucial factor.
To an extent not generally appreciated, Afghanistan had, for two full decades, devoted a growing share of its resources – capital, land, water and labour – to the production of opium and heroin. By the time the Taliban banned cultivation, its agriculture had become little more than an opium monocrop. The drug trade accounted for most of its tax revenues, much of its export income, and a significant share of its employment.
The Taliban’s sudden opium eradication proved to be an act of economic suicide that brought an already weakened society to the brink of collapse. A 2001 UN survey found that the ban had “resulted in a severe loss of income for an estimated 3.3 million people”, about 15% of the population. In this context, it became, according to the UN, “easier for western military forces to persuade rural elites and the population to rebel against the regime”.
Doctors then, as now, overprescribed the painkiller to patients in need, and then, as now, government policy had a distinct bias.
The man was bleeding, wounded in a bar fight, half-conscious. Charles Schuppert, a New Orleans surgeon, was summoned to help. It was the late 1870s, and Schuppert, like thousands of American doctors of his era, turned to the most effective drug in his kit. “I gave him an injection of morphine subcutaneously of ½ grain,” Schuppert wrote in his casebook. “This acted like a charm, as he came to in a minute from the stupor he was in and rested very easily.”
Physicians like Schuppert used morphine as a new-fangled wonder drug. Injected with a hypodermic syringe, the medication relieved pain, asthma, headaches, alcoholics’ delirium tremens, gastrointestinal diseases and menstrual cramps. “Doctors were really impressed by the speedy results they got,” says David T. Courtwright, author of Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America. “It’s almost as if someone had handed them a magic wand.”
By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. Before 1900, the typical opiate addict in America was an upper-class or middle-class white woman. Today, doctors are re-learning lessons their predecessors learned more than a lifetime ago.
Opium’s history in the United States is as old as the nation itself. During the American Revolution, the Continental and British armies used opium to treat sick and wounded soldiers. Benjamin Franklin took opium late in life to cope with severe pain from a bladder stone. A doctor gave laudanum, a tincture of opium mixed with alcohol, to Alexander Hamilton after his fatal duel with Aaron Burr.
The Civil War helped set off America’s opiate epidemic. The Union Army alone issued nearly 10 million opium pills to its soldiers, plus 2.8 million ounces of opium powders and tinctures. An unknown number of soldiers returned home addicted, or with war wounds that opium relieved. “Even if a disabled soldier survived the war without becoming addicted, there was a good chance he would later meet up with a hypodermic-wielding physician,” Courtright wrote. The hypodermic syringe, introduced to the United States in 1856 and widely used to deliver morphine by the 1870s, played an even greater role, argued Courtwright in Dark Paradise. “Though it could cure little, it could relieve anything,” he wrote. “Doctors and patients alike were tempted to overuse.”
Opiates made up 15 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in Boston in 1888, according to a survey of the city’s drug stores. “In 1890, opiates were sold in an unregulated medical marketplace,” wrote Caroline Jean Acker in her 2002 book, Creating the American Junkie: Addiction Research in the Classic Era of Narcotic Control. “Physicians prescribed them for a wide range of indications, and pharmacists sold them to individuals medicating themselves for physical and mental discomforts.”
Male doctors turned to morphine to relieve many female patients’ menstrual cramps, “diseases of a nervous character,” and even morning sickness. Overuse led to addiction. By the late 1800s, women made up more than 60 percent of opium addicts. “Uterine and ovarian complications cause more ladies to fall into the [opium] habit, than all other diseases combined,” wrote Dr. Frederick Heman Hubbard in his 1881 book, The Opium Habit and Alcoholism.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, medical journals filled with warnings about the danger of morphine addiction. But many doctors were slow to heed them, because of inadequate medical education and a shortage of other treatments. “In the 19th century, when a physician decided to recommend or prescribe an opiate for a patient, the physician did not have a lot of alternatives,” said Courtwright in a recent interview. Financial pressures mattered too: demand for morphine from well-off patients, competition from other doctors and pharmacies willing to supply narcotics.
Only around 1895, at the peak of the epidemic, did doctors begin to slow and reverse the overuse of opiates. Advances in medicine and public health played a role: acceptance of the germ theory of disease, vaccines, x-rays, and the debut of new pain relievers, such as aspirin in 1899. Better sanitation meant fewer patients contracting dysentery or other gastrointestinal diseases, then turning to opiates for their constipating and pain-relieving effects.
Educating doctors was key to fighting the epidemic. Medical instructors and textbooks from the 1890s regularly delivered strong warnings against overusing opium. “By the late 19th century, [if] you pick up a medical journal about morphine addiction,” says Courtwright, “you’ll very commonly encounter a sentence like this: ‘Doctors who resort too quickly to the needle are lazy, they’re incompetent, they’re poorly trained, they’re behind the times.’” New regulations also helped: state laws passed between 1895 and 1915 restricted the sale of opiates to patients with a valid prescription, ending their availability as over-the-counter drugs.
As doctors led fewer patients to addiction, another kind of user emerged as the new face of the addict. Opium smoking spread across the United States from the 1870s into the 1910s, with Chinese immigrants operating opium dens in most major cities and Western towns. They attracted both indentured Chinese immigrant workers and white Americans, especially “lower-class urban males, often neophyte members of the underworld,” according to Dark Paradise. “It’s a poor town now-a-days that has not a Chinese laundry,” a white opium-smoker said in 1883, “and nearly every one of these has its layout” – an opium pipe and accessories.
That shift created a political opening for prohibition. “In the late 19th century, as long as the most common kind of narcotic addict was a sick old lady, a morphine or opium user, people weren’t really interested in throwing them in jail,” Courtwright says. “That was a bad problem, that was a scandal, but it wasn’t a crime.”
That changed in the 1910s and 1920s, he says. “When the typical drug user was a young tough on a street corner, hanging out with his friends and snorting heroin, that’s a very different and less sympathetic picture of narcotic addiction.”
The federal government’s efforts to ban opium grew out of its new colonialist ambitions in the Pacific. The Philippines were then a territory under American control, and the opium trade there raised significant concerns. President Theodore Roosevelt called for an international opium commission to meet in Shanghai at the urging of alarmed American missionaries stationed in the region. “U.S. delegates,” wrote Acker in Creating the American Junkie, “were in a poor position to advocate reform elsewhere when their own country lack national legislation regulating the opium trade.” Secretary of State Elihu Root submitted a draft bill to Congress that would ban the import of opium prepared for smoking and punish possession of it with up to two years in prison. “Since smoking opium was identified with Chinese, gamblers, and prostitutes,” Courtwright wrote, “little opposition was anticipated.”
Designer drugs called ‘bath salts’ in the U.S. are dangerous to Americans, but addiction is epidemic among Russians, especially women. Many shoot up, and many contract HIV/AIDS.
The door to the help center for drug addicts flew wide open and Christina stormed in. Her jaw was shifted to the right, her eyes rolled from side to side, her facial muscles, arms and shoulders were twitching. She squeezed a plastic bottle with green tea soft drink and took a few rushed sips amid what appeared to be spasms.
The center’s social workers had seen 19-year-old Christina in that condition before. The young unemployed woman was a regular user of drugs called “salts” in Russia, a genre of narcotic known in the United States as “bath salts,” or “psychoactive bath salts,” PABS for short.
Earlier this decade there were a spate of sensational stories in America about these designer drugs—designed, that is, to circumvent legal restrictions. In the U.S. they have been sold on the internet, in head shops, even in convenience stores, although the key ingredients—MDPV (also known as 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and/or mephedrone—have been illegal since 2010.
They can cause agitation, hallucinations, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, and heart attacks. But their abuse in the U.S. pales compared to the opioid epidemic, which includes heroin and especially oxycodone-based prescription drugs. In Russia, heroin is a plague as well, but the newer epidemic is “salts.”
They can be swallowed, smoked, or snorted, but, as with other drugs, the most dramatic impact comes when you inject them, and more and more Russians, especially women like Christina, are seeking their narcotic escape into euphoria and addiction through a needle. Ironically, many believed at first that salts were somehow safer than heroin, and now they face tragic consequences.
Earlier this month Christina took a free HIV test at the Navigator nongovernmental center assisting addicts and it came back positive. The news did not surprise Christina. She is a fatalist. She knows she is a statistic. There are hundreds of thousands of salts users in Russia, and almost a million victims of the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The drug spans all ages and is used by men as well, but women appear to be particularly vulnerable. It is found throughout the country. Even school children purchase salts on the internet.
The Daily Beast spoke with five local women drug users here in Irkutsk, one of major cities in Siberia. All admitted they are infected with HIV and Hepatitis C. But far from deterring their addiction, their diseases become a further reason for it. Therapists note that addicted women often feel lost, trapped in their sick bodies, without anybody to share their fears. Drugs intensify the usual issues many Russian women experience: loneliness, domestic violence, and social indifference to their plight.
Last year Russia’s State Duma, or parliament, discussed a bill that would allow the prosecution of drug users. Not many in Russia would object if the bill passed. Earlier this year 78 percent of Russians said they wanted to see drug users in prison, according to VTSIOM, Russian Public Opinion Research Center.
“There is as much ‘salts’ in Siberia as snow.”
— —A saying among addicts and doctors
Here in Irkutsk women addicted to salts hang out around the city market. To buy a dose, which costs less than $10, some make money as sex workers at local salons offering intimate services; others distribute drugs or hope to get a share from a friend. A common joke goes, “There is as much salts in Siberia as snow.”
The cannabinoids in cannabis – cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – interact with your body by way of naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body. In fact, scientists now believe the endocannabinoid system may represent the most widespread receptor system in your body.1
There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system and more, and both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor. Your body actually makes its own cannabinoids, similar to those found in marijuana, albeit in much smaller quantities than you get from the plant.
The fact that your body is replete with cannabinoid receptors, key to so many biological functions, is why there’s such enormous medical potential for cannabis. More often than not, medicinal marijuana is made from plants bred to have high CBD and low THC content. While THC has psychoactive activity that can make you feel “stoned,” CBD has no psychoactive properties.
That doesn’t mean THC is medicinally useless, however. It too has been found to have a number of medicinal benefits, although it does need to be balanced with CBD to lessen its psychoactive effects. For example, recent animal research2 suggests THC has a beneficial influence on the aging brain.3,4 Rather than dulling or impairing cognition, THC appears to reverse the aging process and improve mental processes, raising the possibility it might be useful for the treatment of dementia.5
Drug Company Vies for CBD Monopoly
As reported by Motherboard, the drug industry is now pushing for legislation that would make CBD oil illegal – by turning it into a drug.6 The article discusses a South Dakota Senate bill, SB 95, which would exempt CBD from the definition of cannabis, thereby transferring it from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule IV substance. This would allow CBD products to be sold, legally, in South Dakota, where medicinal marijuana is currently not allowed.
This past summer, lobbyists for GW Pharmaceuticals and its U.S. subsidiary, Greenwich BioSciences, fought for an amendment to the bill that would have limited CBD rescheduling to products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – in other words, they wanted only CBD drugs to be legally obtainable.
“Not surprisingly, GW Pharmaceuticals has just such a drug in the pipeline.Epidiolex, a ‘proprietary oral solution of pure plant-derived cannabidiol,’ has already been given to epileptic children in the U.S. as part of afederal investigative studydocumented recently in theNew England Journal of Medicine.” Motherboard writes. Epidiolex is currently under FDA review for approval.
“Since no other pharmaceutical company has a CBD drug anywhere close to market, and the wide range of CBD products already available in medical marijuana states lack FDA approval, if the bill had passed with that amendment intact, patients in South Dakota would have been subjected to a virtual CBD monopoly …
More ominously, The Great CBD Battle of South Dakota appears to be but the opening salvo in a nationwide war between GW Pharmaceuticals and traditional medical cannabis providers …
[U]nder the amendment, South Dakota would … ban myriad CBD products already available in many other states. Even though they cost far less than Epidiolex, and are potentially more effective for patients, since in addition to CBD those “full spectrum” cannabis extracts also contain small amounts of THC and other medicinal components of the plant.”
Study Confirms CBD Benefits for Drug-Resistant Seizures
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study7 published in The New England Journal of Medicine in May 2017 again confirmed what has long been known: that CBD offers relief for children with drug-resistant seizures, in this case patients diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a “catastrophic early-onset encephalopathic epilepsy, with a high mortality rate.”
GW Pharmaceuticals funded the study and was responsible for the trial design. The company also supplied the CBD and placebo. The active treatment was an oral solution containing 100 milligrams (mg) of CBD per milliliter, given in addition to the child’s current antiseizure medication regimen. The placebo was identical to the treatment solution, but without CBD.
The dose was gradually increased over the course of 14 days, with a maximum dose of 20 mg per kilogram of body weight, taken twice a day. At the end of the treatment period, the CBD solution was tapered down over the course of 10 days, reducing the dosage by 10 percent each day. Following is a summary of the main findings:
Children taking CBD experienced a nearly 40 percent reduction in the frequency of convulsive seizures over the 14-week treatment period, from a median of 12.4 seizures per month to 5.9. In the placebo group, the median convulsive-seizure frequency decreased from 14.9 to 14.1
43 percent of patients in the CBD group experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency, compared to 27 percent in the placebo group
During the treatment period, three patients in the CBD group were completely free of seizures. No patients in the placebo group were free of seizures
When looking at all seizure types, the median frequency of seizures per month decreased from 24.0 to 13.7 in the CBD group (a reduction of 28.6 percent), compared to a decrease from 41.5 to 31.1 in the placebo group (a reduction of 9 percent)
37 of 60 caregivers (62 percent) said their child’s overall condition improved in the CBD group, compared to 20 of 58 caregivers (34 percent) in the placebo group
Reported Side Effects
Interestingly, while medical cannabis is typically well-tolerated, with few side effects, a whopping 93 percent of children in the CBD group – as well as 75 percent of those in the placebo group – suffered adverse events in this trial.
Eighty-four percent of adverse events in the treatment group were deemed mild or moderate, and included vomiting, fatigue, fever, upper respiratory tract infection, decreased appetite, convulsions, lethargy, drowsiness and diarrhea. Eight patients in the treatment group withdrew from the study due to side effects.
Of course, these conventional investigators were clueless about the benefit of a ketogenic diet for the treatment of seizures, so that was something that was not evaluated in the study. This is unfortunate, as it would have radically decreased side effects and may even have been more effective than the CBD. According to the authors:
“Elevated levels of liver aminotransferase enzymes (alanine aminotransferase or aspartate aminotransferase level >3 times the upper limit of the normal range) led to withdrawal from the trial of three patients in the cannabidiol group and one in the placebo group.
Overall, elevated aminotransferase levels occurred in 12 patients in the cannabidiol group and one in the placebo group. All these patients were taking a form of valproate [editor’s note: a type of medication used to treat epilepsy] … There were … no instances of suicidal ideation …There were no deaths.”
As mentioned earlier, full spectrum cannabis extracts will not be pure CBD, as they’re derived from the whole plant. And, as noted by CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, ” … [E]vidence is mounting that these compounds work better together than in isolation.”8
It’s possible that “pharmaceutical strength” CBD might be too pure, hence the high rate of side effects. Regardless, there’s a significant difference in cost between a CBD drug and natural CBD oil, which in and of itself is of great concern for many patients and their families who now worry Big Pharma is trying to take over the cannabis industry.
Monopoly in South Dakota Avoided, for Now
As noted by Motherboard, “parents with children suffering from Dravet’s syndrome and many other serious illnesses have been pushing for access to the “miracle drug” since 2013, when Gupta’s “Weed” documentary debuted on CNN.” The program featured a 6-year-old girl beset by some 300 grand mal seizures each week. A CBD-rich cannabis oil reduced her seizures by 99 percent.
Following the airing of “Weed,” hundreds of families moved to Colorado to obtain the herbal medication for their ailing child. Other positive media attention has also helped to loosen the stigma surrounding medical marijuana. In 1969, only 12 percent of Americans favored marijuana legalization. Today, a majority of Americans favor legalization: 53 percent favor legalizing marijuana across the board and 77 percent support legal medical use.9 Even the new surgeon general has cited data on how helpful medical cannabis can be.
Unfortunately, medical cannabis may just be “too good.” Showing promise for a wide range of ailments, the drug industry sees cannabis as major competition, and rightfully so. In South Dakota, a scaled-back amendment to SB 95 was ultimately signed into law. South Dakotans who want legal access to CBD will still have to wait until Epidiolex gains FDA approval, but GW Pharmaceuticals was not successful in limiting the down-scheduling of CBD to FDA approved CBD drugs only.
As a result, GW Pharmaceuticals will not have a monopoly on the market. Still, GW Pharmaceuticals has reportedly contracted lobbyists in several different states10 to fight for its cause, and their combined efforts may well delay implementation of cannabis reform that could improve access to medicinal marijuana. As noted by Melissa Mentele, chairperson of New Approach South Dakota, a cannabis reform group, who herself found relief from chronic pain when she started taking CBD-rich cannabis oil:
“Cannabis patients and caregivers have organized and fought for decades for the government to look at cannabis as a treatment option. Nobody did until hundreds of patients bravely shared their stories. So, we as a community have done the work for them, and now Big Pharma wants to swoop in and use an unfair monopoly and an inferior product to profit off the backs of catastrophically ill and dying people. It is disgusting.”
Indiana Cracks Down on CBD Products
In related news, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb recently announced CDB oil containing THC, regardless of the amount, will no longer be legal in the state, and has instructed local police to “perform normal, periodic regulatory spot checks of CBD oil products.” Retailers were given 60 days to sell out or remove such products from their stores.
According to Indy Star, “Most of the CBD products being sold in Indiana contain less than 0.3 percent THC, meaning they can’t produce a ‘high,'” adding that “Advocates of CBD oil say those products don’t have as many benefits as full spectrum CBD oil products.” At present, Indiana law only allows CBD products to be used by epileptic patients, who must register with the state’s CBD oil registry.
Republican state Sen. Jim Tomes has vowed to introduce legislation that would expand access to CBD oil under state law. According to Indy Star, “He’s received calls from people who’ve used the product to treat arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and mental illnesses.” Tomes told the paper, “I just don’t understand why is there such a resistance to allow people to get this product here? You can’t abuse it. It either works or it doesn’t.” The answer to Tomes’ question appears to be drug industry pressure. As reported by New Hope:11
“Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. appears to be relying on a discredited opinion from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency on the legality of the hemp-derived cannabinoid, which must come from industrial hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC (the high-inducing cannabinoid).
The Nov. 21 advisory opinion was issued from the state capital of Indianapolis, which also happens to be the headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., which is seeking fast-track approval from the FDA for its non-opioid painkiller drug, tanezumab.12
‘As a matter of legal interpretation, products or substances marketed for human consumption or ingestion, and containing cannabidiol, remain unlawful in Indiana, and under federal law,’ Hill wrote in his opinion. This conclusion does not apply to any product that is approved by the FDA.
There are currently two products that contain cannabidiol undergoing clinical trials; Epidiolex and Sativex. Simply put, cannabidiol is a Schedule I controlled substance because marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is a Schedule I controlled substance.'”
Legal Products Confiscated Amid Confusion
There’s plenty of confusion, however, as the attorney general’s opinion and Holcomb’s seizure instructions contradict a 2014 industrial hemp law that allows CBD products in Indiana as long as they contain less than 0.3 percent THC. The primary confusion appears to center around the fact that state law permits CBD as long as it is sourced from hemp and not marijuana.
In an effort to resolve the problem, the hemp industry, led by CV Sciences, has held educational meetings to explain the differences between marijuana and hemp-derived CBD products. The campaign resulted in Indiana state police issuing a statement saying that CBD products are in fact legal in Indiana as long as they’re sourced from hemp. All of this just goes to show that when it comes to cannabis and its derivatives, there’s plenty of confusion to go around, and it’s not always easy to determine the legal status of a given product in a given state.
FDA Issues Warning Letters to CBD Manufacturers
The FDA is also increasing its scrutiny of companies making CBD products. As reported by The Cannabist,13 four Colorado businesses have received FDA warning letters for making “illegally unsubstantiated health claims” on their CBD products. In a November 1 press release, the FDA said:14
“[T]he agency today issued warning letters to four companies illegally selling products online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes … The deceptive marketing of unproven treatments may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.
The FDA has grown increasingly concerned at the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like cancer. In this case, the illegally sold products allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not FDA approved in any drug product for any indication.”
The warning letters15 also rejected claims that CBD oil can be classified as dietary supplements, as Investigational New Drug (IND) applications have been submitted for the CBD-containing drugs Sativex and Epidiolex (both by GW Pharmaceuticals). This suggests the agency is not just aiming to clean up the cannabis industry’s propensity to make illegal claims; it also raises concerns that the legality of all CBD products is in question now that CBD-containing drugs await FDA approval.
Medical Marijuana Lowers Prescription Drug Use and Abuse
While CBD has now been reclassified to a Schedule IV substance in North Dakota by excluding it from the state’s definition of marijuana,16,17 it still remains a Schedule I (illegal) controlled substance in most other states. This is tragic, considering the evidence showing medical marijuana lowers prescription drug use. One wonders if perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it hasn’t been rescheduled across the nation.
There are no other truly compelling reasons why addictive narcotics like OxyContin are legal, while marijuana – which is extremely unlikely to kill you even if you take very high amounts – is not. The video above features W. David Bradford, Ph.D., whose study was published in the journal Health Affairs in July 2016.18 As reported by The Washington Post:19
“[R]esearchers at the University of Georgia scoured the database of all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. They found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law.
The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.”
Legalizing Marijuana Could Save Medicare Hundreds of Millions Each Year
According to Bradford, the Medicare program could save $468 million per year if marijuana were legalized in all U.S. states.20,21 Already, $165 million was saved in 2013 in the 18 states where medical marijuana was legal that year. Similarly, a 2015 working paper by The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) states that:22
“If marijuana is used as a substitute for powerful and addictive pain relievers in medical marijuana states, a potential overlooked positive impact of medical marijuana laws may be a reduction in harms associated with opioid pain relievers, a far more addictive and potentially deadly substance.”
Not only did the NBER find that access to state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries resulted in a significant decrease in prescription painkiller overdose deaths, it also led to a 15 to 35 percent drop in substance abuse admissions. So, it would seem medical marijuana – far from being the deadly drug it’s been made out to be – could actually save thousands of lives that would otherwise be destroyed by painkiller addiction and its lethal consequences.
It’s a real travesty that the U.S. Senate is more than willing to shell out taxpayer money to Big Pharma for addictive painkillers and the drugs to treat addiction when a safe and effective answer to the pain and opioid epidemics lies right before our noses.
Both CBD and THC Are Far Safer Than Commonly Used Pain Killers
Polls show older Americans are becoming increasingly converted to marijuana use.23 Between 2006 and 2013, use among 50- to 64-year-olds rose by 60 percent. Among seniors over 65, use jumped by 250 percent.24 Pain and sleep are among the most commonly cited complaints for which medicinal marijuana is taken. Considering the high risk of lethal consequences of opioid painkillers and sleeping pills, medical marijuana is a godsend.
As noted by Dr. Margaret Gedde, an award-winning Stanford-trained pathologist and founder of Gedde Whole Health, there’s enough scientific data to compare the side effects of cannabis against the known toxicities of many drugs currently in use. This includes liver and kidney toxicity, gastrointestinal damage, nerve damage and, of course, death.
Cannabidiol has no toxicity and it’s virtually impossible to die from marijuana. It’s also self-limiting, as excessive doses of THC will provoke anxiety, paranoia and nausea. Such side effects will disappear as the drug dissipates from your system without resulting in permanent harm, but it’ll make you think twice about taking such a high dose again. Make the same mistake with an opioid, and chances are you’ll end up in the morgue.
Gedde also notes that cannabis products often work when other medications fail, so not only are they safer, they also tend to provide greater efficacy. In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR25) released a report26 on 14 clinical studies about the use of marijuana for pain, most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The report revealed that marijuana not only controls pain, but in many cases, it does so better than pharmaceutical alternatives.
Where to Find Reputable Information About Medical Cannabis, Its Uses and Benefits
While reputable information about cannabis can be hard to come by, it’s not impossible to find. One good source is cancer.gov.27,28 This is the U.S. government’s site on cancer. Simply enter “cannabis” into the search bar. You can also peruse the medical literature through PubMed,29 which is a public resource (again, simply enter “cannabis” or related terms into the search bar).
CMCR also provides a hyperlinked list30 of scientific publications relating to a wide variety of medicinal uses of cannabis, and the Journal of Pain,31 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,32 which also has information relating to the medicinal aspects of marijuana, preclinical and clinical trials are underway to test marijuana and various extracts for the treatment of a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation, pain and mental disorders.
To learn more, I also recommend listening to my previous interviews with Gedde and Dr. Allan Frankel, in which they discuss the clinical benefits of cannabis. Frankel is a board-certified internist in California who has treated patients with medical cannabis for the past decade. Awareness is starting to shift, and many are now starting to recognize the medical value of cannabis.
Unfortunately, that also means the drug industry is doing everything it can to secure its place in the market, and in so doing, eliminating the legal use of natural and far less expensive cannabis products. It’s up to us to make sure we stay involved in the political process whenever marijuana-related legislation is brought up. If we don’t, you can be sure the drug industry will become the only game in town.
The cost of the opioid epidemic in the US has increased six-fold after a White House panel revised the total to include the value of lost lives. Previous estimates looked only at health care, law enforcement and economic activity.
The updated figures put the actual cost of the opioid crisis on the American economy in 2015 as $504 billion, or the equivalent of 2.8 per cent of GDP, according to a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), a study group serving the executive branch.
The half a trillion total is a sharp increase from a study released last year that estimated the cost of the opioid epidemic in 2013 at $79 billion. Most of the costs were attributed to health care and criminal justice spending, as well as lost productivity.
The CEA said it made adjustments to the prior research to accurately measure the number of opioid-related deaths and “other valuable activities in life besides work.”
“This is the first but not the last publication CEA plans to issue on the opioid crisis,” according to the report. “A better understanding of the economic causes contributing to the crisis is crucial for evaluating the success of various interventions to combat it.”
The staggering figures come less than a month after President Donald Trump declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency, while stopping short of designating federal disaster funds to tackle the problem.
Last year was the worst in US history for drug-related deaths. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that about “60,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses” in 2016, up 8,000 from 2015.
“This epidemic is filling up our cemeteries, our emergency rooms, and equally tragic, our foster homes,” Sessions said.
Lecturer in Crimimology and Social Policy, Loughborough University
Harry Sumnall receives and has received funding from grant awarding bodies for drug and alcohol research. He is an unpaid member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), an unpaid trustee of the drug and alcohol prevention charity Mentor UK, and an unpaid Board Member of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR). This article represents his personal opinions only.
Mark Monaghan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.
Crack emerged in the Americas in the late 1970s as a relatively cheap and transportable form of cocaine that could be more easily distributed than the powdered variety and soon led to what was widely described as an “epidemic”, especially in the US.
Supporters of drug reform in the US have long highlighted the uneven application of the law concerning crack and powder cocaine. Referred to as the “100-1 Rule”, until the passing of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, possession of one gram of crack in America was treated as the equivalent of 100g of powder cocaine. As crack use was associated with the black, urban poor and powder cocaine with the more affluent white middle classes, this policy became symbolic of the racism of the “war on drugs” and the over-representation of black men in the US prison system .
By the late 1980s, crack was also being used in the UK, and in 2002 the British government was concerned enough to produce a national crack strategy. And now, after a relative reduction in use, the drug is making a worrying comeback.
What is crack?
The physical and psychological effects of crack are similar to powdered cocaine – usually cocaine hydrochloride, which is mainly administered through the nostril as a powder. In chemical terms, crack is the free base (non-salt based) form of cocaine, which makes it volatile enough to be inhaled through smoking, although more people in England and Wales are now injecting it.
Both forms of cocaine act as a stimulant and produce similar “highs”. But what makes crack more potent than powder cocaine is the immediacy, duration, and magnitude of its effect, as well as the typical frequency and amount used. There are concerns over the long-term effects of cocaine in all its forms, and it has been associated with neurological and neuropsychiatric changes, as well as damage to the heart and lungs.
The risk of dependence among users of crack cocaine has also been estimated to be two to three times greater than among powder cocaine users.
Price and availability
Beyond wider drug trends and fashions, price, purity and availability are considered to be important drivers of drug use over time. Not only has the price of crack fallen by 13% since 2007 but it is now more readily available. Newly established supply routes in the UK have also emerged. Central city gangs distribute crack into coastal and rural areas, along so-called “county lines”. The Home Office reports that the number of seizures of crack in Britain are currently at their highest since 2008, although the weight of seizures has fallen since 2015-16.
Household surveys typically underestimate the use of drugs such as heroin or crack, but statistical modelling suggests that the number of people using crack in England has increased by 10%, with 166,640 users in 2010-11 rising to 182,828 by 2014-15.
These trends in price, availability and use have also been accompanied by crack becoming increasingly pure. And that could be having an effect on the number of fatalities caused by it.
Crack is rarely recorded as contributing to death by coroners, as toxicological assessments don’t distinguish between the different forms of cocaine. But cocaine deaths in England and Wales rose from 320 in 2015 to 371 in 2016. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) commented that there was a significant increase in both crack and powder cocaine purity at all levels in 2016, which may partly explain this increase.
Another trend suggesting crack use is on the rise is data on treatment presentations. The average age of a person using crack cocaine presenting to treatment is 35. But this year has seen a 30% rise in young people under the age of 25 accessing treatment for problems with crack. It is a decade since we witnessed a rise in this age group seeking help for crack.
Additionally, unlike effective opioid agonist therapies, such as methadone for heroin use, there is no substitute drug that can be given to those seeking to stabilise and reduce crack use. Around 41% of people presenting to treatment services in England and Wales also report using both opioids and crack, which can present additional challenges.
Overall, reviews of evidence suggest that psychosocial interventions (behavioural and “talking” therapies) for cocaine users can keep people in contact with treatment services, but do not necessarily lead to a reduction in (crack) cocaine use. One approach, called contingency management, which provides a system of incentives (such as vouchers, employment, or loosening clinic attendance requirements) to make abstinence more attractive than continued drug use shows promise, but there are some remaining questions about the longevity of the treatment’s effect.
Anecdotally, some people trying to reduce their use of crack have reported that cannabis has helped. However, there is only limited scientific evidence to support this, and so more research is required.
Why is crack back?
As various ethnographic studies have shown, crack has been part of the urban landscape for decades. With high levels of youth unemployment alongside cuts to social and other services under austerity, participation in illicit economies becomes one of the only income generating opportunities available for those who would otherwise have to negotiate life on a low income. After all, inequality between the rich and poor, has been show adversely to impact people who are dependent on drugs.
In a fast moving drugs market, the population is neither served nor protected by the current paralysis in drug policy and treatment services. On both sides of the Atlantic, it’s time we recognised that budget cuts have consequences.
Pharmaceutical and synthetic opioids are a major part of the catastrophe, but the other side of the supply chain is actual opium, and the world’s biggest opium market just happens to be occupied Afghanistan, the epicenter of the global heroin trade. The United States military has been operating in Afghanistan as part of the war on terror for over 16 years now, and opium production in the war-torn nation continues to increase, year-over-year, coinciding with the rise of the opioid crisis.
“The country has produced the majority of the world’s opium for some time, despite billions of dollars spent by the US to fight it during the 16-year-long war there. Afghan and Western officials now say that rather than getting smuggled out of Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, at least half of the crop is getting processed domestically, before leaving the country as morphine or heroin.” [Source]
This particular article goes on to attribute the high production of opium, morphine and heroin on the Taliban, suggesting that the U.S. has been spending billions in taxpayer dollars directly fighting the drug war in Afghanistan.
“Those forms are easier to smuggle, and they are much more valuable for the Taliban, which reportedly draws at least 60% of its income from the drug trade. With its increasing focus on trafficking drugs, the Taliban has taken on more of the functions a drug cartel.” [Source]
What is not mentioned, however, is the fact that international trade in illegal drugs from war-torn countries is essential to geopolitics, implying that the U.S. military is being used to create an environment where the drug trade is allowed to flourish.
“It’s clear that drug trafficking is a major factor in world scheme, and some people put it up as maybe number three, after oil being number one, and then arms number two, and then drugs number three. Actually there’s a certain amount of interaction between those because very often where you’re having illicit trafficking of arms, the planes that take arms in one direction, the arms are paid for with drugs and the planes come back with drugs.” ~Peter Dale Scott
This suggestion coincides with production data since the U.S. invasion, and with statements made by a former U.S. who in 2015 stated that the CIA was actively involved in the Afghan drug trade.
“I’m ashamed to say that I have participated in these drug smuggling operations on many occasions. For a long time, I tried to convince myself that we were doing it for the right cause, but this burden is destroying me inside and I just can’t stand it anymore” he admitted before the court audience.
“The CIA has been dealing drugs since its creation. They’ve been smuggling drugs everywhere in the world for the past 60 years, in Taiwan in 1949 to support General Chiang Kai-shek against the Chinese commies, in Vietnam, in Nicaragua, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg” he launched out during the court trial. “We helped the Mujahideen develop poppy cultivation to fight the Soviets, but we took back matters in our own hands in 2001 when we invaded Afghanistan under Bush” he pleaded. ~John F. Abbotsford, a 38-year old Afghan war veteran [Source]
For those who doubt that Big Pharma is part of the destructive Deep State, consider the following:
Since July 26, 2000, when a landmark review was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), pharmaceutical companies, their FDA partner, many members of Congress, medical schools, and doctors have been aware that approved medical drugs have been killing and maiming Americans at a disastrous rate.
These drugs, brought to you by Pharma, kill 106,000 Americans a year like clockwork. That extrapolates to over a MILLION deaths per decade.
The 2000 JAMA review was written by the late Dr. Barbara Starfield, who was a revered public health expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
I interviewed Dr. Starfield in 2009, a year or so before her death. She confirmed several key points: the figure of 106,000 deaths was a conservative estimate; there was NO comprehensive effort by the federal government to reverse this trend; no one from the federal government had ever approached her to consult on “the situation.”
At the top of the food chain, Big Pharma executives and financiers are completely aware of what their drugs are doing.
You could call this reckless endangerment, or negligent homicide. I call it what it is: murder.
The effort to kill, maim, debilitate, and disable large sectors of the population makes that population easier to control. That IS a Deep State operation. In one way or another, it has been so since the dawn of organized society.
Now we have the opioid crisis. These medical drugs are wiping out people at an alarming rate. As I’ve written in recent articles, one of the two major pipelines for the trafficked drugs starts with the pharmaceutical manufacturers, who are intentionally distributing opioids far beyond any legitimate need.
Here are my raw notes I prepared for the Coast to Coast AM interview I did two days ago with George Noory. They tell the story in telegraphic fashion:
PURDUE PHARMA push their opioid far beyond any ethical boundary—Sackler family—$35 billion in profits from OXYCONTIN. Paid $600 million in fine. Several individuals sentenced to, wait for it, 400 hours of community service.
PURDUE guilty of lying to doctors about dangers, falsely claiming patients could stay on drug long term. Paid doctors and researchers to say the dangers of addiction were overblown. Promoted that the drug could be used for a wide range of (off-label) conditions.
INSYS PHARMA: DOJ JUST ARRESTED THE FOUNDER JOHN KAPOOR ON CHARGE OF RICO RACKETEERING—USING BRIBERY AND FRAUD TO ILLEGALLY DISTRIBUTE FENTANYL TYPE OPIOID.
EXAMPLES OF OPIODS: MORPHINE, FENTANYL, OXYCONTIN, NALAXONE, DEMEROL, HEROIN, DILAUDID, VICODIN, CODEINE, PERCODAN, PERCOSET. THESE ARE GATEWAY DRUGS INTO HEROIN WHEN A PERSON’S PILLS ARE CUT OFF.
FENTANYL 50 TIMES STRONGER THAN MORPHINE.
OVER 100 MEDICAL OPIOIDS. UNCONSCIONABLE. ONLY NEED MORPHINE AND A FEW OTHERS. PROLIFERATION OF THE DRUGS FUELED EPIDEMIC AND ADDICTION. THESE ARE THE PILLS ON THE STREETS.
KILLER STATS: 2 MILLION OPIOID ADDICTS IN THE US.
300,000 DEATHS SINCE THE YEAR 2000 IN THE US.
ROUGHLY 33 THOUSAND DEATHS PER YEAR FROM OPIOIDS.
CBS: IN 2015, 90 MILLION ADULTS IN THE US TOOK A LEGIT PRESCRIBED OPIOID. Doesn’t count illegal trafficking.
EFFECTS: DEATH FROM RESPIRATORY DEPRESSION, OVERDOSE.
Common side effects of opioid administration include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression. Physical dependence and addiction are clinical concerns that may prevent proper prescribing and in turn inadequate pain management.
MY INSIDER SOURCE AND WASHINGTON POST: A 2016 LAW SIGNED BY OBAMA SHACKLED DEA IN ITS EFFORTS TO CRACK DOWN ON BIG PHARMA TRAFFICKERS (That law is the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, signed by President Obama on 4/9/16.)
THE OTHER MAJOR TRAFFICKING PIPELINE—FOX NEWS—CHINA UNDERGROUND LABS/DEA: “A homemade designer version of fentanyl, the highly addictive opioid which is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, has been the center of drug busts across the country this month—with law enforcement pinpointing its origin from underground labs in China. The DEA says the China-U.S. supply is further fueling the country’s drug epidemic.”
“’This [Chinese] stuff is unbelievably potent. It is so powerful that even a tiny amount can kill you,’ DEA spokesman Rusty Payne tells FOX Business. ‘China is by far the most significant manufacturer of illicit designer synthetic drugs. There is so much manufacturing of new drugs, [it’s] amazing what is coming out of China. Hundreds of [versions], including synthetic fentanyl and fentanyl-based compounds’.”
“Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced this week details on a mail-order furanyl fentanyl smuggling ring bust. The operation had been bringing the drug — which has been dubbed ‘White China’ — into the U.S from Asia. NYPD Chief of Detective Bob Boyce said that this was the first time investigators have seen this type of fentanyl in New York City.”
“Also this week, Cincinnati Customs and Border Protection agents said they seized 83 shipments of illegal synthetic drugs, including 36 pounds of furanyl fentanyl, from China.”
The Boston Globe: “An extremely powerful drug used as an elephant tranquilizer has quickly become a new killer in the nation’s opioid epidemic, and New England authorities and health workers are bracing for its arrival.”
“The drug, carfentanil, is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, another deadly synthetic opioid.”
“The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a nationwide alert about the drug, which its acting chief called ‘crazy dangerous.’ In Massachusetts, State Police have warned their crime lab staff about how to handle carfentanil during analysis. Even inhaling the drug or absorbing it through a cut can be fatal.”
“Law enforcement and health officials believe most users do not know they are ingesting carfentanil, which apparently is often mistakenly thought to be heroin or a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, a weaker but still lethal synthetic opioid.”
“If carfentanil’s trade route is similar to that of fentanyl, the path stretches from Chinese manufacturers to Mexican processors to smugglers who supply dealers in the United States, law enforcement officials said.”
—end of my notes—
People don’t want to admit Big Pharma trafficking operations are conscious and intentional. “Oh, they made a mistake.” “Oh, they didn’t know.” “Oh, it’s only about the money.”
When you make the drugs and sell the drugs and traffic the drugs and see the catastrophic effects, it’s not a mistake.
It’s not only about money.
At the highest levels, you want to be doing what you’re doing.
Just consult the two great British Opium Wars against China. The 19th century wars were fought to ensure a clear path for the exporting of opium into China, where millions of dead-end addicts were created. On purpose.
The idea that we now live in a kinder gentler society where the pharma barons would never intentionally do harm…that is a nothing more than a convenient fiction.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.
As everyone today knows, opioid narcotics like fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine and oxycodone have created a toxic epidemic in the United States with at least 100 daily overdose deaths. This happened because Pharma paid off doctors, medical associations and federal lawmakers to loosen opioid regulations.
There was a reason narcotics were traditionally limited to severe pain cases, not “everyday” pain—they are addicting and can kill, as we are now seeing. But Pharma—especially the Sackler family’s Purdue which makes OxyContin—banked on the fact that younger doctors and patients did not remember why narcotics were so heavily restricted. They were right.
As new Pharma-driven prescribing guidelines were drafted and the industry-appeasing FDA waved new pills and patches through despite daily deaths, brazen “pill mills” and “Oxy docs” popped up, as did legions of addicts. Soon “opioid addiction” treatment clinics popped up to play the other side of the street—the addictions caused by the pill mills—further enriching Pharma.
Not only can narcotics like the popular OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and the fentanyl patch lead to coma, respiratory depression, shock, pulmonary edema and death, but studies suggest they can increase a body’s sensitivity to pain and make pain worse—a phenomenon called opioid-induced hyperalgesia. The drugs also cause constipation, hormonal derangement and negative mental changes.
The label on Purdue’s OxyContin says “WARNING: ADDICTION, ABUSE AND MISUSE; LIFE-THREATENING RESPIRATORY DEPRESSION; ACCIDENTAL INGESTION; NEONATAL OPIOID WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME; CYTOCHROME P450 3A4 INTERACTION; and RISKS FROM CONCOMITANT USE WITH BENZODIAZEPINES OR OTHER CNS DEPRESSANTS.”
Many opioid addicts began their downward spiral with opioid prescriptions they should never have been given for chronic pain. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain should seldom if ever be treated with opioids, but thanks to the short-term pill approach of our health care system, it usually is. The cost to society of the opioid epidemic in crime, disability, treatment of addiction and overdoses, lost wages and of course deaths has yet to be fully calculated.
“The problem is, patients are started, develop tolerance, need a higher dose, get tolerant to the higher dose, use more than prescribed, ask for early refills, get switched to a ‘pain management specialist,’ who if they violate the pain contracts, get fired, discharged, and then they go to the street for the opioids,” says James O’Donnell, a pharmacology professor at Rush University in Chicago.
The following medical case from a pharmaceutical textbook shows just how dangerous opioid drugs can be, whether derived naturally from poppies or created synthetically by chemists:
“A 35-year-old divorced male school teacher and wrestling coach in a southwestern state was seen by a sports medicine specialist. He had complained of chronic low back pain, and he had been taking hydrocodone/acetaminophen for the pain. The sports specialist was concerned about acetaminophen toxicity, and prescribed ‘low dose’ methadone, 10mg twice daily, and discontinued the hydrocodone/acetaminophen. The next day, he stayed at his parent’s home. He was very drowsy, sleeping on and off most of the day, and went to bed early. In the late morning of the third day, his mother was unable to awaken him. He was declared dead by EMS.”
Trump has announced a national public health emergency over opioids for a scourge created by Pharma. When the extent of damage from cigarettes was revealed, Big Tobacco agreed to cease advertising and to pay, in perpetuity, various states to compensate them for some of the medical costs of caring for persons with smoking-related illnesses. Like Pharma, Big Tobacco said cigarettes “weren’t addictive.”
Unbeknownst to many, the Sackler Family, with assets of $13 billion, the nation’s 19th wealthiest family is one the top players in philanthropy. You can find the Sackler Gallery in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. or visit the Sackler wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Sackler’s even have a museum at Harvard, Guggenheim, and dozen of universities around the country. If it’s art— the Sackler family has it.
Participating in the art game takes money and a lot of it. So, where does the Sackler money come from?
According to Forbes, the “Sacklers continue to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the businesses in 2016– some $700 million last year, by Forbes’ calculations – from an estimated $3 billion in Purdue Pharma revenues plus at least $1.5 billion in sales from their foreign companies”.
Forbes outlines a brief history lesson of how the Sackler family got started in the world of medicine-
The family fortune began in 1952 when three doctors — Arthur (d. 1987), Mortimer (d. 2010) and Raymond Sackler — purchased Purdue, then a small and struggling New York drug manufacturer. The company spent decades selling products like earwax remover and laxatives before moving into pain medications by the late 1980s. To create OxyContin, Purdue married oxycodone, a generic painkiller, with a time-release mechanism to combat abuse by spreading the drug’s effects over a half-day.
The FDA approved the medication in 1995 and it soon took off. By 2003 OxyContin sales hit $1.6 billion as the drug helped drive a huge nationwide spike in opioid prescribing. At its peak in 2012, doctors wrote more than 282 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet — nearly enough for every American to have a bottle.
Now opioid prescriptions are declining amid increased scrutiny over drug addiction, down 12% since 2012 according to data from healthcare information firm IMS Health. OxyContin (which is also beginning to face competition from authorized generics while fighting to protect its patents over tamper-proof, extended-release oxycodone) saw prescriptions fall 17%.
It wasn’t until the 1980’s, as explained by Forbes, the Sackler family through their family-owned drug company called Purdue Pharma created OxyContin. Then in 1995, the FDA approved the medication and sales exploded. Sales hit $1.6 billion in 2003, as a nationwide spike in opioids was seen. By the peak in 2012, doctors wrote more than 282 million prescription for opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. Good times for the Sacklers from 1996- 2012, as the family drug business exploded.
According to The New Yorker, Oxycontin ” has reportedly generated some thirty-five billion dollars in revenue for Purdue” since 1995. OxyContin’s sole active ingredient is oxycodone, a chemical cousin of heroin, which makes it highly addictive.
The New Yorker further says Purdue used marketing techniques to deceive the American public of the drug’s true addictive characteristics.
Purdue launched OxyContin with a marketing campaign that attempted to counter this attitude and change the prescribing habits of doctors. The company funded research and paid doctors to make the case that concerns about opioid addiction were overblown, and that OxyContin could safely treat an ever-wider range of maladies. Sales representatives marketed OxyContin as a product “to start with and to stay with.” Millions of patients found the drug to be a vital salve for excruciating pain. But many others grew so hooked on it that, between doses, they experienced debilitating withdrawal.
Oddly enough, around the time OxyContin was approved, prescription opioid deaths across the United States surged. Fast forward to more relevant times, where heroin and fentanyl deaths are exploding.
Diving into the opioid crisis onto the streets of Baltimore. It’s very common to see local citizens shooting up heroin on city streets. In this video, I asked a man how did this addiction start? Guess what he said?… It all started with legal painkillers, such as OxyContin.
As a few parasitical elites make billions flooding America’s streets with opioids. We the every day American citizen have to deal with the consequences, as President Trump outlined in yesterday’s opioid crisis speech:
In 2016, more than two million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids.
Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died from overdoses involving opioids.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, outnumbering both traffic crashes and gun-related deaths.
In 2015, there were 52,404 drug overdose deaths — 33,091 of those deaths, almost two-thirds, involved the use of opioids.
The situation has only gotten worse, with drug overdose deaths in 2016 expected to exceed 64,000.
This represents a rate of 175 deaths a day.
Bottomline: It’s time for the American people to learn the truth about the opioid crisis and the very few elites who have profited. The question You should ask: why did our government allow this to happen?
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone