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.
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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Good News, Drug Users: Silk Road Is Back! VICE Got a Sneak Peek
Silk Road has risen from the dead. After the FBI seized the deep web’s favorite illegal drug market and arrested its alleged founder Ross Ulbricht last month (for, among other things, ordering a hit through his own website), the online-marketplace-cum-libertarian-movement has found a new home and opened for business today at 11:20 AM EST.
In the wake of the original Silk Road’s closure, everything became a little turbulent for its users. First, they had to get used to not getting high-quality, peer-reviewed drugs delivered direct to their sofas. (Though presumably they didn’t stop getting high, instead forced back to the “mystery mix” street dealers and surly ex-Balkan war criminals who have spent years filling cities with drugs at night.) Some users were pissed off that they’d lost all the Bitcoin wealth they’d amassed, or that paid-for orders would go undelivered, while small-time dealers freaked out about how they suddenly lacked the funds to pay off debts owed to drug sellers higher up the food chain.
Viable Silk Road replacements have been few and far between. Project Black Flag, one marketplace purportedly created to fill the void, appears to have been a scam. The site’s owner recently closed up shop and made off with a load of Bitcoins without sending any product out to customers. Another alternative, Sheep, has been plagued with security worries, with many vendors deciding to hold off until a more stable site is launched.
Above: Drug addicts gather by the hundreds under the Pul-i-sokhta Bridge in west Kabul to shoot up, smoke, buy, and sell.
Below: This former Afghan soldier who calls himself Shir Shaw lives under the Pul-i-sokhta Bridge in Kabul, shooting up during the day and hustling for money at night.
From Swimming with Warlords
Dee Dee Ramone was one of the strangest people I’ve ever met. Whenever we saw him, we were never sure if we were going to get the good Dee Dee or the bad Dee Dee. In the 90s, when I was asked to write a forward to his book, Lobotomy, I described him as, “the last of the dying breed of authentic rock star, an authentic bad guy who got over it, and in so doing, changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll. Dee Dee was the archetypical fuck-up whose life was a living disaster. He was a male prostitute, a would-be mugger, a heroin user and dealer, an accomplice to armed robbery—and a genius poet who was headed for an early grave, but was sidetracked by rock ‘n’ roll.”
Needless to say, I doubt we’ll see any more Dee Dee Ramones coming along in the near future. Rock ‘n’ roll these days is just too clean. And if I had to put a diagnosis on what Dee Dee suffered from, I wouldn’t know what to say. He was that unique.
The following interview was conducted in 1989, a few months after he left the Ramones. He called me and said he wanted to spill the beans. Since we’d been friends since 1976, I was happy to turn on the tape recorder and let him go—which he did for about ten hours.
DEUTSCHLAND UBER ALLES
My parents fought a lot. I don’t wanna get into that, but I remember it vividly—I mean I remember a lotta other crumby things, and some good things too—but I had a bad childhood.
What I did to compensate for it was to live in a total fantasy world. I grew up in Germany and when I went to school, I failed the first grade and never went back. Actually I tried to go back the next semester, all my friends were going to the second grade—and I had to make a left and go down the hallway—and they said, “Where ya goin’?”
I said, “I’m going home!”
That was in Munich, it was an American army school for the military people stationed there. We didn’t live right in the city, we lived on the outskirts, and there was some farmland and a lot of old bombed out houses and stuff. I’d wander around there and do things like swing on the swings—and I’d go into these intense fantasies—and imagine I was a fighter pilot.
I also lived in Pirmasens, which is a small town right on the French border. The German side of the border was called the Siegfried Line and the French side was the Maginot Line. I used to wander round in the old bunkers and look for war relics. I used to pick ‘em up all the time, like old helmets and gas masks and bayonets and machine gun belts. This went on for like a year and I started dealing these war relics—but I used to have fun with them too.
I’d always been fascinated by Nazi symbols—from finding them in the rubble in Germany. They were so glamorous. They were just so pretty. My parents were very upset by that.
One time my father said something fucking ridiculous. I had found a Luftwaffe sword that was beautiful, and I knew I could keep it or sell it for a fortune, like 80 marks. When I brought that home, my father got uptight and said something really sick, he said, “Can you imagine all our guys that died because of that?”
I thought, This guy is a real asshole. As if he really cared. I didn’t figure my father for any passions like that, about anything. And from that day on, he just became a total joke to me—and I stopped fearing him.
Has Krokodil, the Flesh-Eating Russian Street Drug, Made Its Way to the US and UK?
You remember when we first alerted you to the joys of krokodil, right? In case you’d forgotten, it’s a drug from Russia that is just like heroin, except that it eats your flesh alive(NSFW link) because it’s made of painkillers cut with things like gasoline and sulfur. In other words, it’s probably the worst drug in the world. Well, unfortunately, it seems to be spreading. It made headlines last week when reports came through that it was being used in Arizona. And in the UK, Dr. Allan Harris, a specialist in treating drug addicts and the homeless, has reported that “there are plenty of warning signs” that krokodil is being used in Gloucester, where his drug clinic is. In an article he wrote for the Independent, he also mentioned that he’d treated a man in his early 30s who he believed had injected krokodil.
I called Dr. Harris to discuss his findings. We tried to negotiate whether to call the drug “krokodil” (from the Russian) or to Anglicize it now that it had made its way over from the mainland and start referring to it as “crocodile.” (I’ve used the former here, but Dr. Harris was pretty adamant about using the latter.) More importantly, it was an illuminating insight into the UK’s depressing cutting-drugs-with-things-that-are-even-worse-for-you-than-drugs scene.
VICE: So is it just the one case of krokodil that you found?
Dr Alan Harris: Yeah, I mean, it’s a bit retrospective really because it was a few years ago now. At the time, I just thought it was the citric acid burns of a heroin user, but looking back the tissue destruction was far, far in excess [of what you’d expect from that]. When you get citric acid issues you usually get second-degree burns, but this actually took out a huge crater of all the forearm muscle. When you took out the dead tissue you could actually see the tendons moving at the base of this crater and the bones as well—so pretty much like these horrific pictures you see on the warning leaflets for krokodil. It actually got to a point where he couldn’t move his right hand any more because it weakened the muscle so much. He could roll a cigarette and that was about it.
So how did they treat it?
They put a free skin graft over the top, which all healed OK but it was horrendous. The muscles never grew back because they were completely gangrenous. Looking back, it didn’t fit at all with citric acid because that’s an irritant but no worse than a slight infection. This was actually very, very disproportionate. From one small injection he took out the area of about 12 by eight centimeters of tissue, and quite deep as well—skin down to bone.
Doctors in British Columbia Can Now Prescribe Heroin
British Columbia, Canada, has had a heroin problem for years. Statistics are hard to come by, but in 2008, a former user described use of the drug in the province as an “epidemic,” and a 2010 BBC story called Vancouver, BC’s largest city, the “Drug Central of North America.” But a new strategy in the fight against addiction and the host of societal problems that come with it is emerging: let doctors prescribe addicts heroin so they get the drug they need without resorting to crime. Studies have shown this approach can help many longtime users, but the Canadian gonvernment wants it shut down.
Prescription heroin is used in some European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, but it’s been a long time coming to North America. The first Canadian study that tested the effectiveness of giving addicts heroin under the supervision of doctors was the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), which started in 2005. It eventually recruited 251 addicts in Vancouver and Montreal who had unsuccessfully attempted to kick smack numerous times. A control group was given methadone, which is commonly prescribed to heroin addicts so they can wean themselves off hard drugs.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, showed that injectable heroin—known in medical-speak as diacetylmorphine—was a far more effective and efficient treatment than methadone in getting users out of the vicious and costly cycle of crime, infection, overdoses, and hospital visits that are a way of life for those in the grips of long-term, hardcore addiction. Compared to those trying to kick heroin using methadone, participants used street drugs less often, committed fewer crimes, and were employed more often, more connected to their families, and straight-up happier. A “cost of illness” analysis from 2000 found that severely addicted individuals can cost society over $43,000 per year, so getting addicts off the streets and into roles as members of productive society is good for all of Canada.
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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Cyber Criminals Hate Brian Krebs So Much They Sent Heroin and SWAT Teams to His Home
If you have the right kind of knowledge, enough free time, and a penchant for misanthropy, the internet can provide the means to make someone’s life really fucking miserable. A perfect example is last week’s case of internet security journalist Brian Krebs being sent a package of heroin in an attempt to frame him for a drugs charge.
Krebs has become perhaps one of the most reviled enemies of the cyber-underworld, but I suppose that was always bound to happen after he made it his life’s work to expose the web’s elusive cyber criminals and credit card fraudsters. Unfortunately for our digital Dick Tracy, the community he targets have a wealth of resources that they can use to mess with him in response—stuff that far surpasses posting passive-aggressive tweets or signing him up to tedious fashion PR email blasts.
Alleged Russian credit card fraudster—or “carder,” as they’re known to people who know about them—MUCACC1 (a.k.a. “Fly”), ordered a gram of heroin to be sent to Krebs’ home and faked a phone call from one of his neighbors to tip off the police. But, like something out of a 2.0 Douglas Adams novel, Krebs had already infiltrated Fly’s private carding community forum and found the post detailing his plan. It turned out that Fly had managed to raise $200-worth of Bitcoins from other like-minded Brian-haters to purchase the drugs from the deep-web black market Silk Road.
And, as you might have guessed from the financial support he received, that wasn’t the first run-in Brian Krebs has had with the nefarious inhabitants of the underweb. Throughout his ten years of writing about internet security and fraud, he’s been the target of constant harassment from various shady online communities.
His website is frequently the target of attacks that disrupt his business as an independent journalist, $20,000 of credit was fraudulently taken out in his name to shake him up financially, and he was once a victim of SWATing, where a phoney distress call is made from your address so that a SWAT team tears up to your house and waves their guns in your face—a gradually escalating pattern of harassment all inflicted on Krebs because of his chosen line of work.
I spoke to Fly, the heroin sting ringleader, in an obscure instant messaging chat room about planting drugs, ordering assassinations from the net, and why he hates Brian Krebs so much.
Brian Krebs. (Photo via)
VICE: Hi, Fly. Why did you attempt to frame Brian Krebs with a package of heroin?
Fly: You could say it was just for lulz. Besides, he pays for his lunch with the money that we [carders] are losing, using criminal techniques. If you want to write about crime, be honest. If you’re not honest, you will have to pay. We didn’t invite him to our forum. He became a celebrity by putting the spotlight on Russian carding. All serious carders are against the popularization of carding. The less people, the better—we don’t want to create new criminals. And he’s popularizing it.