Ireland Must Act to Combat Its Growing Heroin Problem
In the early 1980s, a man named Tony “King Scum" Felloni began importing large quantities of heroin into the Republic of Ireland. The drug quickly began to work its way into daily life in Dublin’s working-class areas, and thanks to its relatively addictive nature it has remained wildly popular. Take a walk down certain streets in Dublin and you’ll get a pretty good indicator of its prevalence in the capital.
Unfortunately, the government’s plans for treating heroin addiction nowadays appear to be much the same as they were in the 80s: almost nonexistent. The government at the time paid very little attention to the problem, and—despite the implementation of new, progressive harm reduction laws in other European countries—Ireland’s attitudes are still very much lingering in the decade of fax machines and Billy Idol.
According to the 2012 annual report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Ireland has the highest number of heroin users per capita in Europe. They claim that seven people in every thousand are addicted to the drug, which translates to roughly 30,000 Irish citizens. Worryingly, Ireland also has the third highest death rate from drug use in Europe, behind only Norway and Estonia. The EU average is 21 deaths per million people; for Ireland, it’s 68 per million.
The Mike Tyson Interview
Last week, I sat in a dark room in the New York Public Library to hear an author read from his new book. Although a screen on the side of the stage advertised an upcoming event with Pulitzer Prize winners Toni Morrison and Junot Diaz, I wasn’t there to see a literary novelist read about the postmodern condition. I had come to the library to see a a heavyweight champion best known for his facial tattoo and the night he bit off another boxer’s ear. Yes, I was at the library to hear Mike Tyson read from Undisputed Truth, his new celebrity memoir co-written with Larry Sloman.
While it was a bit odd that Mike was standing on the same stage Toni Morrison would speak from a few weeks later, he was full of profound (and also stupid) statements. He schooled the moderator on ancient history and said, “A room without a book is like a body without a soul.”
Yes, several minutes later he said to that same moderator, “What are italics?” when asked why he wrote a passage in italics, but it was clear that both at the library and on the page, Mike’s story is more moving than any novel written by some jagoff from the literati. He openly discussed the effect of having a prostitute for a mother, how the legendary boxing coach Cus D’Amato discovered him and gave him a real home, then died a few years after his career took off, and how he burned through millions of dollars thanks to cocaine.
The critics agree. “Parts [of the memoir] read like a Tom Wolfe-ian tour of wildly divergent worlds: from the slums of Brooklyn to the high life in Las Vegas to the isolation of prison,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in a rave review in the New York Times.
Regardless of what you think of Mike Tyson as a person, it’s impossible to deny that he has led a tremendously interesting life. I called him this week to talk about his obsession with ancient history, how his pet pigeons turned him into a fighter, and whether his is a story of redemption or the story of a troubled man struggling to turn his life around.
VICE: Why did you decide to write a memoir?
Mike Tyson: My wife, Kiki, told me people were going to write a book about me anyway. If they’re gonna write a book, why not have people hear if from your own mouth instead of somebody else’s mouth?
At your recent book reading, you talked about your obsession with the history of ancient wars. Why are you interested in ancient history?
A long time ago, I was at the table, sitting down, and either one of the boxers or Cus said something about Alexander the Great. He said Alexander was 6’ 6”. He must have been a giant back then. This struck an interest in me, but then I found out Alexander the Great wasn’t a giant—he was really a runt. In real life he wasn’t tall, and since then I’ve read about men of war. I relate to the psychology of war. Tom Cruise said when he’s performing he’s like a soldier of war. Men of war are really deep guys, really hardcore people, as far as humans are concerned.
Heroines, Lincoln Clarkes’ portraits of Vancouver’s female addicts
VICE: How did the series begin?
Lincoln Clarkes: Leah, a solid friend who died in 1999 of a heroin overdose, introduced me to that addicted subculture. We frequently ran into each other for near a decade, she was usually engulfed in bizarre, surreal situations. But it all started the summer morning of meeting Patricia Johnson, who eventually went missing, and her two girlfriends. When photographing the trio, it became a Film Noir episode of drama. The portrait of them strung out on the steps of the Evergreen Hotel on Columbia St. brought me to my knees and made friends cry. I willingly slid into the new obsession of documenting at that point, in the vein of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, portraying social injustice and calling attention to the plight of addicted women. Within a few months the whole country was welling up with tears, and the police finally noticed.
Was it difficult to gain access to these women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside?
Everybody is suspicious in the heroin/crack ghetto, but it’s also a friendly place. When walking into those streets and alleys you’re really walking into their living room, dining room, and bedroom. During this series a female assistant usually accompanied me, someone the Heroines would find amusing and a joy to meet, and who really cared about their situation, giving them apples, applying band-aids, lighting their cigarettes, etc. We would always try to make them laugh, or they would tell us some sordid sad story. Getting the skinny of what was going down in the ‘hood or with them, they opened-up like butterflies to us and became very generous. We made a point of giving every one of them a picture of themselves, and promised that we would not divulge their identity, unless they died.
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Heroin Holiday: Shooting Farm-to-Vein Heroin with Prague’s Locavore Junkies
Every August, while Europe’s bankers, lawyers, and other desk jockeys shut off their phones and head to the beach, the junkies of Prague set up camp in the poppy fields outside the city for a vacation of their own. For one glorious month, there are no cops to run from, no dealers to skirt—just acres of vermilion blooms and as much free opium as you can collect before nodding out.
This year we joined the junkies on their heroin holiday, to learn how to turn the same poppies that seed our morning bagels into potent injectable narcotics and sample the most all-natural, locally sourced opiates Europe has to offer. If they ask, please tell our moms we went to Majorca.
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Buy Illegal! Magazine So Its Vendors Can Buy More Drugs
Michael Lodberg Olsen is the bearded, benevolent guardian angel to Copenhagen’s drug addicts. A couple of years ago, the Dane started driving a van around his home cityoffering heroin users a safe, sterile environment in which they could inject under the supervision of volunteers and trained nurses, rather than behind some trash cans in the park or in a shitty hostel. Olsen’s scheme was initially met with a fair amount of local opposition, but in the end he managed to win many of his detractors over.
Michael’s latest project, which he launched a couple of weeks ago, is Illegal!—a magazine that hard drug users can buy for $1.80 and sell to the public for around $5.00. At first glance it seems similar to the Big Issue, until you get to the mission statement. While the Big Issue was set up to feed homeless people and get them off the streets, Illegal!'s explicit aim is to help drug addicts—many of whom are homeless—raise money to buy more drugs.
Again, the scheme has attracted criticism—after all, much of the cash handed over will be going straight into the pockets of heroin dealers—but Michael has presented a case that’s hard to argue with. Surely it’s better that Copenhagen’s drug addicts are earning their money selling magazines, than if they are—for example—robbing people, shoplifting, or selling their bodies for sex?
Michael (left) and his colleague Thomas Paalsson
I Dated an MCAT (Bath Salts, Not the Medical School Test) Addict for Two Months
On the morning I turned 25, I woke up to find my brain had disappeared, replaced by a barren mental landscape populated by the odd tumbleweed and a few lonely crickets. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I was floating, but not in a good way.
This was because for the past two months I thought I had innocently been popping molly, when in reality, it was a member of the bath salts family I’d been unwittingly indulging in.
Remember bath salts? The quasi-legal drugs that made headlines last year because people were taking them and going on psychotic rampages? The substances that wrecked entire communities? Yup, that’s what I had been taking by mistake.
Some backstory is necessary: In the middle of winter, I started seeing a new guy. From what I could see, he was addicted to a drug called MCAT, which he described as “like MDMA” but with less serious side effects. The high didn’t last as long, he said, so popping one was less of a commitment. That was a complete lie—from what I can tell, the side effects are far more serious. MCAT fucked with my serotonin levels worse than any other drug I’ve touched.
In hindsight, I realize that the fact I had so much trust in my MCAT-loving boyfriend makes me sound a bit crazy. The dude kept a toolkit stuffed with this white powder beneath his bed. While the rest of his room was pandemonium, the kit was pristine and organized, like the contents of a doctor’s bag. Inside were several grams of MCAT, tucked in carefully beside baggies of soon-to-be-filled pill capsules. There was also a hollow glass tube—open at both ends—that he’d bought at a medical supply store. Because fuck snorting this stuff with $20 bills, right? That would just be amateur hour.
Teenage Exorcists, Part 2
Sick of taking responsibility for the shitty things that have happened to you in your life? Help is on the way, in the virginal and strangely vacant form of three Bible-thumping teenage exorcists from Phoenix, Arizona. Eighteen-year-old Brynne Larson and her friends Tess and Savannah Sherkenback (18 and 21, respectively) claim to be able to confront the demons lurking inside traumatized people and draw them out using nothing more than a crucifix and a few choice words. But are these teenage exorcists really empowered by the Almighty, or merely by Brynne’s father, a failed televangelist named Reverend Bob?
In our new film, the girls and Reverend Bob give us exclusive access to their tour of Ukraine, during which they attempt to save the souls of recovering drug addicts and exorcise people’s “sexually transmitted demons.”
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Why Are There So Many Mentally Ill Drug Addicts in Cornwall?
Cornwall is David Cameron’s favorite summer chill spot. It is a coastal retreat where private schoolchildren from the United Kingdom go to spend their General Certificate of Secondary Education results money on Fat Face hoodies and retired doctors wander the National Trust beaches drinking scrumpy out of tubs and doing watercolors of trees. However, inside this quant paradise are some of the most drug-addled and mentally sick communities in the UK.
One of these areas is Penzance. It’s a civil parish that is colloquially known as “brown town,” because of its abundance of heroin, or “holiday homeless,” because of its large population of vagrant people. It’s the terminus of the First Great Western railway, the last major town in the South West before you hit the sea and home to an abnormally high percentage of people with dual diagnosis—those suffering from both mental health issues and substance misuse problems.
The proportion of people in drug treatment in Cornwall with mental health problems has doubled in the past year and is now running at a rate way above the national average. As well as that, only 55 percent of people with mental illnesses are in settled accommodation and drug and alcohol misusers are the section of society most urgently in need of housing. Put these statistics together, and it seems like Cornwall is a county of mentally ill addicts with nowhere to go.
Afghanistan’s Opium Plague
Afghanistan’s drug story begins with a well-worn fact: the country is the world’s largest producer of poppy opium, the raw material from which heroin is made.
Here is a less worn fact: Afghans have now become a leading consumer of their own drugs. An estimated one-million citizens (or eight-percent of the total population) are addicted, according to a United Nations survey.
Some experts believe this enormous drug problem may present a greater long-term threat to the stability of the country than the war.
Here is an index of Afghanistan’s drug statistics based on the annual United Nations Opium Surveys from 2009 to 2012:
— UN officials blame the drug addiction problem on three things: decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics, and limited access to treatment.
— At least one-million Afghans are addicted to drugs, but likely more since the survey doesn’t cover women and children.
— There are 350,000 heroin and opium addicts, a 75 percent increase since 2005.
— Fifty percent of Afghanistan’s opium-using parents give the drug to their children.
— Between 12 to 41 percent of Afghan police recruits test positive for some kind of drugs.
— Nearly 900 tons of opium and 375 tons of heroin are trafficked from Afghanistan every year.
— Afghan opium/heroin has a double-impact, creating health havocs in consuming nations and putting large amounts of money in the hands of both criminals and terrorist movements.
— Ironically, the number of people dying from heroin overdoses in Russia and NATO countries is actually higher than the number of their soldiers killed during war-time engagements in Afghanistan.
— Opium poppy cultivation rose by 18 percent in 2012 despite eradication efforts by Afghan governors.
— Government corruption plays a role in undercutting efforts to take on the opium trade. So does the Taliban, who tax the crop in areas under their control.