DDN December 2022 DDN Dec_2022 - Page 7

' We have to look back to look forward ... What ’ s happened to the evidence ?'
lies – and to disproportionate stop and search .
Did people who made global drug policy consider race ? A search of key words in 41 documents suggested they didn ’ t . Words and terms such as race , racism , racist , and racial injustice didn ’ t feature . ‘ Our story has not been included in the literature ,’ she said .
Dynamic peer networks were helping to rewrite the narrative . Phoenix – aka Mohawk , a ‘ rebel educationist ’ – travelled to parties around California with information and a ‘ pharmacopeia to help hydrate
people and help them think about harm reduction ’. From being a ‘ raver , engaged in a lot of drug use , getting whatever I could to enhance my experiences ’, Mohawk rose to the challenge of outwitting the NYPD to distribute water , evading arrest , and – with the aid of a borrowed spectrometer – running a drugchecking lab from an apartment living room , ‘ Ubering samples back and forth from a party to give people the information .’
The need for this intervention was acute , particularly with such high risks from a tiny amount of fentanyl . ‘ I feel I have to work outside of an institutional context ,’ said Mohawk . ‘ There are a lot of people like me , low income , people of colour , at very great risk .’
SHARING INFORMATION Karin Silenzi de Stagni had had similar experience of needing to find people and intervene at the right time . As part of a small volunteer-run charity called Psycare UK , she shared information – at parties , schools , music events , festivals – wherever people might come into contact with recreational drugs . ‘ Young people taking drugs is part of human nature – it ’ s a natural thing to do , to discover , to know ,’ she said . ‘ So we try to take the stigma out and create bridges with health services . And because we are peers and not in uniform ,
‘ I feel I have to work outside of an institutional context . There are a lot of people like me , low income , people of colour , at very great risk .’
we are approachable .’
Prohibition led to lack of information and all kinds of risks – adulteration and misidentification of drugs , dosing errors , adverse interactions from polydrug use , and effects of pre-existing medical conditions . Added to festival conditions – lack of sleep , sensory stimulation , lots of people , bad weather – psychedelic drugs could magnify the mindset and setting and lead to symptoms that appeared to be common with psychiatric illnesses . Psycare took ‘ a non-conventional approach without medication and without burden on the NHS ’ to help the person understand and integrate their experience , and tried to work with them afterwards . ‘ We ’ re nonjudgemental
and listening is key ,’ she said . ‘ We allow the process to unfold and let them acknowledge their capacity to treat themselves . It ’ s a mutual learning experience .’
SELF ESTEEM AND RESPECT Using drugs for 42 years , 18 of them injecting , had informed Lee Hertel ’ s decision to create Lee ’ s Rig Hub in Minneapolis , ‘ a space to drop in and hang out ’, with access to syringes , HIV testing , information and the internet . Until then , ‘ services were delivered in a very stigmatised setting , with people expected to stand outside in all weathers and temperatures ,’ he said . His hub was a place for camaraderie , which made a ‘ great difference to self-esteem and selfrespect ’. It also acknowledged that ‘ people want to get high ’ and got on with ‘ meeting and educating more and more people ’.
Haven Wheelock met her challenge while living and working in Portland , Oregon – ‘ founded as a white supremacist state , with some of the highest rates of substance use and misuse in the country , where drug laws always disproportionately affect black people ’. Her work at Outside In , helping to link marginalised and homeless people with health and wraparound services , made her realise the desperate need to increase care for people who use drugs .