Interview with Alex Betsos – Co-Founder, Karmik

Interview with Alex Betsos – Co-Founder, Karmik

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is Karmik?

Alex Betsos: Karmik is a nightlife/festival harm reduction organization based out of Vancouver, although they do work all over BC.

Jacobsen: What has been its developmental trajectory?

Betsos: Karmik started out as a conversation between myself, Margaret Yu, and Munroe. Margy and I met in Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Simon Fraser University where I did my undergraduate degree. I started out as the volunteer coordinator, in part because I was Margy’s resident drug nerd, with an extensive interest in harm reduction. We actually did a small harm reduction workshop with CSSDP back in 2013, and even worked a show at Red Room in Vancouver, but it never went further than that [I have a picture of this if you want]. Karmik since its inception in 2014 has gone from 3 coordinators and a couple volunteers just trying to figure out how to do harm reduction in Vancouver, to an internationally engaged harm reduction project. I’m proud of my little harm reduction baby, and it still breaks my heart that I cannot be involved at this time. I still do some advising for my former colleagues from time to time, but that’s mostly between friends having a beer at this point, nothing formal.

Jacobsen: Now, you are in graduate school. However, what has been your role in it? What is your current role in it?

Betsos: I am not involved with Karmik at this point. I stepped back, as my access to things like the Karmik email were a clear conflict of interest for me in relation to my future research.

In the past I was the volunteer coordinator. My job was to structure the training’s, organize them, and also be the bridge between the volunteers and the staff. One of the things about working at a tiny organization is that you normally pick up a couple of other roles too. I also did a lot of the more science-based research stuff, and at some point, picked up communicating with some of the music festivals and drafting the budget. On top of that all of the Karmik coordinators are also event coordinators. That means we go to events, and work with the volunteers to disseminate harm reduction information while making sure people are doing alright.

Jacobsen: How is your graduate school work (congratulations, by the way,) helping with the work in harm reduction, night life, and so on? How is it helping you deep interest in philosophy too, of which I am aware?

Betsos: I’m not sure how much I can say about my research at this point as it is in the preliminary stage. In the past, I have tended to focus on how drug knowledge becomes disseminated and contested. For now I’ll just say that what I’m doing is relatively similar.

My graduate school work does not have a direct impact on harm reduction, or at least not yet (also thanks!). My research area is medical anthropology and science and technology studies. I’m much more interested (at least for now) in how ideas about drugs come to exist. What are the cultural paradigms, the identities of people involved with drugs, whether that’s researchers, activists, or people who use drugs. I kind of come from a mindset where I want my research to be applicable, inasmuch as it shows the nuances drug prohibition. One of the areas where there is a real lack of research on drug prohibition broadly, is with non-marginalized people (that includes people who use drugs, but also people who create services for people who use drugs). My bachelor’s research, for example, explored drug knowledge on online forums, particularly focusing on research chemicals. In a world where drugs are illegal, how do people who use drugs acquire knowledge, and make decisions?

This kind of works in with my philosophy questions around what science is and how it is engaged with by a public. Even the question of what counts as knowledge comes into tension when you’re talking about the experience of drugs and what clinicians might say about drugs.

Jacobsen: How are organizations including CSSDP and Karmik improving the advancement of harm reduction in Canada and British Columbia?

Betsos: So, there are kind of two aspects to CSSDP, there are the local chapters, and then there is the national board. On the local chapter level, I’ve seen drug policy students push for naloxone training, access to drug checking, and safer drug information. On the national level one of the things we’ve done is put out a guide on cannabis education for youth that is based on a harm reduction model. By focusing on harm reduction in cannabis I kind of hope we can shift the perspective on harm reduction more broadly.

Karmik is the advancement of harm reduction in British Columbia! I’m exaggerating, but it is definitely part of the process of making harm reduction more broadly accepted. Munroe has put so much effort into making sure that people have access to naloxone, as well as being involved in working groups. Before Pemberton Music Festival went bankrupt, we had a sanctuary presence there for two years, and last year we did a pilot run on a new style of Sanctuary space at Center of Gravity. One of the biggest things I always thought was important with Karmik though was just providing people in the nightlife community with solid harm reduction information. There were no harm reduction booths at events in Vancouver really before Karmik (although there were some organizations in the past). When I was volunteer coordinator we also taught a lot of people about harm reduction practices. If that in itself is not an advancement, I’m not sure what is.

Jacobsen: What has been the feedback from the younger population and from the professional communities (academic and research)?

Betsos: I have never met someone that did not like what Karmik was doing. I’m not aware of much focus on Karmik in research. It’s worth noting that Karmik is kind of the small kid on the block. Organizations like Dancesafe, ANKORS, Trip! Project, have been around for a really long time, and so in a lot of ways they are better for studying.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Alex.

Image Credit: Alex Betsos.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

CSSDP UBC Hosts Art Show and Dialogue on the Opioid Crisis

CSSDP UBC Hosts Art Show and Dialogue on the Opioid Crisis

In Vancouver, there is no lack of awareness that we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis. With roughly four individuals in BC losing their lives to a drug overdose every day, many of us have been personally affected in some way by this crisis. Although we often see coverage of the opioid crisis in the news, what we rarely see is how students and young people in BC are experiencing this crisis. But, this isn’t because students aren’t affected. In November, members of CSSDP UBC helped facilitate naloxone training for over 100 students at UBC. There was such high demand for this event that the student society had to schedule another naloxone training party a few weeks later. Despite this, there is still a level of stigma attached to openly discussing experiences with opioids and other illicit drugs. We wanted to change that.

Our chapter received a community grant from UVic’s Canadian Institute of Substance Use Research (CISUR) to organize a community dialogue on opioids. CISUR’s vision of a dialogue involves bringing together individuals who may hold diverse opinions and perspectives to engage in a two-way exchange of knowledge with the goal of developing a better understanding of each other. We knew that we wanted to bring students together to share their experiences and opinions on various aspects of the opioid crisis, and we decided that art would be a great way to draw in students and stimulate these important conversations. We put out a call for artists to submit work related to opioids or drugs more generally, and within a few weeks, we had received multiple submissions!

On March 28th, we turned a public study space at UBC’s student union building into a pop-up art gallery. The gallery, showcasing a diverse selection of art, exemplified the wide-reaching impact the crisis has had on young people in BC. The gallery featured two photo series that depicted two very different views on drug use. One was a series of photos from a photovoice project entitled “Living in the Best Place on Earth”, led by medical anthropologist Danya Fast. This project involved marginalized youth on the downtown eastside using photography to capture their day-to-day interactions with various social and physical spaces that shape their risk of drug-related harm. The other photo series, entitled “The Good Side of Drug Use”, was created by CSSDP member and UBC anthropology doctoral student Hilary Agro and vibrantly depicted portraits of friends and new acquaintances who use drugs. This series, which was set at Burning Man, was shown to help destigmatize drug use by reminding us that many different people use drugs for a variety of reasons including pleasure and social connectedness.

Emily Carr student Dani Martire showed two installation art pieces made from one medical patient’s year’s worth of pharmaceutical prescription sheets and medication instructions. These pieces highlighted the challenges of navigating the medical system and how this struggle can be tightly linked with addiction. Vancouver Community College student Mildred German showed an oil painting that colourfully and powerfully illustrated the devastating role that social stigma plays in the opioid crisis.

UBC art graduate Emma Windsor-Liscombe installed a large floating scroll that depicted stages along the life of her cousin, who died tragically from an opioid overdose. Emma’s six illustrations across the scroll were in the style of ancient tomb artwork, illustrating her cousin’s struggle with addiction that started with being the victim of sexual violence at age 13. Finally, Seattle artist Aurora Bartells, showed three illustrations that reflect on the experience of opioid addiction from her recovery perspective.

[Insert Images 7,8 here]

We hosted roundtables with artists and attendees within the gallery space to provide an opportunity for students and young people to discuss how the crisis has impacted them and those around them, particularly in the context of being a student. We exchanged ideas about ways to move forward for a healthier and safer environment on campus during this crisis. In these discussions, students acknowledged that drugs are often used non-problematically and for a variety of reasons, but this fact doesn’t seem to shape the way many universities approach or respond to drug use. At a time when students may be at increased risk of harm from drug use that would generally be considered non-problematic in the absence of the opioid crisis, a take-away from these conversations was that campuses should have a spectrum of resources in place for students, from those who use drugs occasionally and without problems to those looking for help.

[Insert Images 9,10 here]

See the Ubyssey’s coverage of the event here.

If your chapter is interested in using art as a stimulus for dialogue around drugs and drug policy, feel free to contact Stephanie Lake, CSSDP board member and chapter president for CSSDP UBC: stephanie@cssdp.org.

Stephanie Lake

Stephanie Lake

Stephanie is a doctoral student in population and public health at the University of British Columbia, where she is currently undertaking research to better understand the links between cannabis, opioids, and drug-related morbidity.
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The Rave About Harm Reduction

The Rave About Harm Reduction

 

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

According to the VUE Weekly, talked about the ongoing and increasing drug misuse and associated crimes at raves.

In early to middle June, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) has been proposing a prohibition on the “concerts with ‘fast-paced’ electronic music.” EPS stated the gatherings create a strain on the EMS, the hospitals, and the EPS.

They argue the communities have a fallout too with drug misuse, disorder and then some furtherance of crime past the venues. With more crime and drug misuse, this is acknowledged as a problem.

However, the VUE Weekly considers this not the sole place, the raves, in which these occur. One reason may be the stigma around rave culture in general. The founder of Night Vision and the direct of the Alberta Electronic Music Committee, Andrew Williams, believes stigma is the issue.

The article states, “There’s a stigma around rave culture, as much as there was with rock ‘n roll culture in the 1960’s. The rave scene is often synonymous with drugs, purple dreadlocks, and lengthy conversations with a white dude with a Polynesian-style tattooed sleeve talking about the decline of the oil industry. Clearly, drugs are not a music problem; it’s a people problem.”

Williams talked about the city-wide problem and not particularly the rave music. It becomes a broad-brushing of the rave scene and, in turn, a mostly large-scale demonization of the young.

“Drugs are not located to one genre, it’s a city-wide problem,” Williams stated, “It’s incorrect to paint it all as ‘rave’ music, otherwise it just drives it underground; this was a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy.”

This attempt by the EPS opens the conversation more on the nature of narcotics and electronic music in relation to the Edmonton community. The issue comes from the potential for further harm with punitive approaches against the young capitalizing on the stigma against the young and the drug and rave cultures.

Where there should more appropriately a stance on the implementation of harm reduction methodologies in the rave culture, Karmik, in British Columbia, is one such harm reduction oriented organization in British Columbia.

Harm reduction methodologies, which come from the philosophy, improve the safety and protect the wellbeing of both ravers and drug users.

“It’s important the decision comes from a collaborative approach,” Williams opined, “That it comes from the community, the harm reduction professionals, the promoters, and the artists. The long-term solution is a plan devised by all parties at the table.”

The music festivals and raves have been important and growing parts of advanced industrial societies’ cultures, especially for the young. One licensed practical nurse and founder of Indigo Harm Reduction Services, Shelby Young, explained the ways in which to deliver the harm reduction strategies have a prerequisite.

That pre-need is the health education. If we can advance the health education with harm reduction philosophy, we can improve the health and wellbeing of people who are involved in drug use and rave culture.

This seems to be a more evidenced-based approach than the moratorium on raves approach.

“The philosophy behind harm reduction is an acknowledgment that, yes, people will be experimenting with drugs, but rather than them hiding it, harm reduction strategies, like drug-testing facilities and safe spaces, will have them engage with their curiosity in a safe way,” the article stated.

Young talked about the provisions for the nightlife community with the harm reduction tents and the first-aid. The support from the provincial government can be an important element to all this.

The article concluded, “While the proposed moratorium created a stir, which eventually had city council deny the moratorium last week, sometimes it takes a bang to make a buck. Now, city council, EPS, and the electronic dance music community all have a seat at the table to discuss what can be done, rather than what won’t.”

Original publication in VUE Weekly.

Image Credit: Pixabay.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Public Support for the Harm Reduction Strategies for Opioids Moderate

Public Support for the Harm Reduction Strategies for Opioids Moderate

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

HealthDay News reported the stigma around opioid use in Canada. In particular, the ways in which the opioids used by the public and the harm reduction tactics to help with the crisis are linked to the stigmatizing attitudes of them.

That is to say, those who have the stigmas against the use of opioids tend to have the lower levels of support for at least two harm reduction strategies. This is reportage based on a study published this month in the journal of Preventive Medicine.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Dr. Emma E. McGinty and colleagues conducted an online survey. It had 1,004 people. It was nationally representative of the population of the U.S. adults.

The purpose was to “examine support for two evidence-based harm reduction strategies for combating the opioid epidemic, as well as attitudes to those who use opioids. Respondents’ support for legalizing safe consumption sites and syringe service programs in their communities were measured,” the article stated.

According to the reportage, the researchers found between 29% of the respondents have support for the licit safe consumption site and 39% have support for the syringe services. There were “high levels” of stigma against those who use opioids.

The article stated, “16 and 28 percent were willing to have a person using opioids marry into their family and to have a person using opioids start working closely with them on a job, respectively. Persons using opioids were rated as deserving (versus worthless) and strong (versus weak) by 27 and 10 percent of respondents, respectively.”

In sum, a correlation exists between lower support for legal safe consumption sites and syringe service programs with the stigmatizing attitudes.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

The Grand Prairie Homelessness Conference

The Grand Prairie Homelessness Conference

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Homelessness conference for Grand Prairie happened recently. It was called the 7 Cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness.

It took place in red Deer as a 3-day conference with attendance by one Homeless Initiatives Program Specialist named Shanda Berns. She wanted to know of more ways in which homelessness could be combatted.

Berns went to see the activities, initiatives, and interventions other cities have taken part in. She stated, “We have a big opioid crisis right now. I am hoping there are some strategies and collaborations that we can make that kind of go hand-in-hand with harm reduction as well as long-term housing stability.”

Berns argues that the crisis altered the ways in which the people in the metaphorical trenches and literal streets of the homelessness problems of various major cities of the country deal with, help, and manage homelessness.

“There are a lot of evictions happening due to increase in crisis. People are coming into units, they are using (drugs) and overdosing. It has put a lot of strain on the system. We are dealing a new subset of homelessness with the opioid crisis,” Berns explained.

She thinks more training would help the workers dealing with the clientele. The conference was intended for community members, education people, government officials, and the practitioners in the field. That is, it was open to most people for the creation of a dialogue for activism to end homelessness, or, more realistically, reduce homelessness.

The theme was entitled “A Decade of Progress, a Lifetime of Change.”

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

MADD and Lift & Co. Partner Up

MADD and Lift & Co. Partner Up

Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD and Lift & Co. are joining together. Lift & Co. is an organization devoted to empower consumers and businesses. The means by which they do this is to help them make informed cannabis-related decisions. The facts and the figures to help them.

Lift & Co. have a web platform to compare and then review the various cannabis strains online. It can help connect the end users with the newest trend data and products. It has a database of over 50,000 reviews with millions of data points for industry analysis.

MADD works as a charitable national organization for the halting of impaired (drunk) driving while also supporting the victims of these violent crimes. There is a volunteer group in about 100 communities in Canada. They help with raising awareness, victim support services, and also the prevention of injuries on Canadian roads with the awareness.

As noted in the reportage, “Canada’s leading cannabis education and analytics company partners with internationally respected authority on public awareness and education to deliver comprehensive certification training for provincial and private cannabis retailers.”

The two organizations are entering a “definitive agreement” as an exclusive partnership in order to certify and train cannabis staff across the country It will be called the Lift & Co. Cannabis Retail Certification, or the “Certification.”

It is self-guided online materials links to in-class components “administered by MADD Canada.” Lift & Co. has about four years of experience in the legal cannabis market through education. Also, MADD (Canada) has a definitive expertise in outreach for the responsible consumption of substance. In their prominent case, the substance known as alcohol.

The CEO of Lift & Co., Matei Olaru, stated, “We are thrilled to be the exclusive partner of MADD Canada on our best-in-class retail training program… MADD Canada is a household name in Canada, synonymous with public awareness, and their years of expertise in instruction and curriculum development are invaluable as we develop standardized education for retailers who will be on the frontlines of the sale of legal recreational cannabis.”

Also, the MADD CEO, Andrew Murie, said, “Effective training programs for retail sales staff are vital to responsible recreational cannabis sales and consumption… Together, MADD Canada and Lift & Co. will develop and deliver comprehensive education to ensure retailers are utilizing best practices that promote safe use and harm reduction.”

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

No Harm Reduction Upcoming Ontario Premier a Concern

No Harm Reduction Upcoming Ontario Premier a Concern

According to the Toronto Star, the city council will be urging the recently elected Progressive Conservative (PC) government at Queen’s Park to maintain harm reduction. The importance of the urging for the PC government to keep the best methodology known for combatting the overdose crisis in Toronto.

Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto drug strategy implementation panel, wrote a letter for the board of health of Toronto. He asked for Ontario work within the harm reduction practices to combat the opioid overdose crisis through an expansion and support of the harm reduction services. Cressy argued the situation is urgent and needs to be dealt with to save lives.

In the last year, three new supervised injection sites opened in the city of Toronto in Ontario. These operate within the existing community facilities with one run by the city, which becomes the first of its kind in Ontario.

“Today there are four permanent sites located in Queen West, Yonge-Dundas, Moss Park and Leslieville, at a cost of $3.5 million annually. Five emergency overdose prevention sites have been approved to operate for six months,” the Toronto Star stated. The province provides 100% of the funding for the operation of the various harm reduction services.

However, with the incoming Progressive Conservative leadership, it is uncertain as to the percentage or status moving into the future. “Their future is now in question after Ford told reporters during the election campaign he was ‘dead against’ supervised injection sites,” the article said, “The number of overdose deaths in Toronto has steadily increased in the last five years, from 104 recorded in 2013 to 303 in 2017.”

Nurses monitor the users as they inject their preferred substance at the city’s supervised injection signs. They will “look for signs of overdose or infection.” No deaths happened over thousands of visits – impressive record.

The expert lead for Ontario in emergency medicine and the former chief of the department of emergency medicine at Sinai Health System, Dr. Howard Owens, stated, “It is very, very important that we not only continue to save lives and demonstrate to people that we care about them, but I think the message to addicts if we go back on our policy is a very destructive message about their place in society.”

Owens noted zero negative impacts for supervise injection sites in contradiction to the claims of those who opposed them.

The Toronto Star concluded, “The board of health meets June 18. Council meets starting June 26.”

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Harm Reduction for Needle Debris in Lethbridge, Alberta

Harm Reduction for Needle Debris in Lethbridge, Alberta

The Lethbridge Herald reported on the opioid crisis ongoing throughout the country focused on the province of Alberta. There has been a community backlash to the opioid crisis that has led to several deaths in this month alone.

There is needle debris. There are substances and users. Communities are working to deal with it. The Alberta Health Services Lead Medical Officer, Dr. Vivien Suttorp, spoke about the harm reduction approach to the opioid crisis.

“With harm reductions, we provide services to individuals who are addicted to opioids and who are unable or unwilling to seek treatment,” Suttorp stated, “We support them in safe practices, and we support them in ensuring they have links to community organizations and social supports as required, and that they have appropriate education.”

The needles that become debris may be host to various viruses including hepatitis C, hepatitis C, and HIV. In the majority of contexts, a virus is only alive for  few minutes on the needles. Therefore, the needles may not be a harm in the longer term.

However, there may be accidental pokes from needles less than a few minutes after use, and so the health workers or others may contract these serious viruses. If you are pricked, poked, or punctured by a needle such as these, then you should immediately wash very well with water mixed with soap and then call HealthLink.

Immunizations are important for self-protection of citizens. “All children receive hepatitis B vaccine… Hepatitis B is one of the viruses that lasts longer in a needle. So make sure your children are up to date,” Suttorp explained.

The calls for pediatric needles for HealthLink have not increased over the last year and a half with about 1 to 3 per month. “But there are no details available on where and how those incidents take place,” the Lethbridge Herald notes.

68,000 needles, approximately, were on the Lethbridge streets with a 45% return rate. 55,000 syringes have gone out as well with a 95% return rate.

The Executive Director of ARCHES, Stacey Bourque, stated that the people who take the needles through a clean needle program are encouraged to return those needles. Those who take the needles out remove them from a free biohazard container.

The World Health Organization, or the WHO, has a set of best practices. ARCHES follows them. Bourque explained, “The outlined best practice from the (WHO) is that you operate as a distribution program… You don’t limit access to syringes or restrict access regardless of the fact you are operating an (SCS). And you don’t require a one-for-one exchange.”

Needles can be tracked to a degree, but ineffectively. However, no solid means exists in wide practice to be able to track syringes and ARCHES is unable to have them mandatorily set up to be returned.

One of the most effective ways to prevent disease spreading is to have on-time use syringes, according to the article.

“There isn’t a communicable disease we know of that is contained within one subpopulation… Eventually, it’s going to make its way out into the general population,” Bourque stated, “We tried (retractable needles) as a pilot program six months ago and there were a few issues with that… We’re talking about people who don’t necessarily have safe injection practices.”

Bourque and ARCHES are open to suggestions from the public.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Eden May Not Survive in Vancouver

Eden May Not Survive in Vancouver

The Toronto Star reported on a cannabis dispensary in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. The dispensary runs an opioid substitution program. It works in partnership with the department of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

The opiate study program co-ordinator for Eden Medicinal Society, Denise Brennan, stated that after about six months the set-up in Eden Medicinal Society will be unable to afford to stay open, especially without a business license or a development permit. These were both denied with the current bylaws that do not allow the dispensaries to work within 300 metres of one another.

Brennan stated, “It’s quite an expensive, intensive program… It’s more than $5,000 a month just to have the doors open, so in the absence of any way to generate revenue — because we can’t get a business licence to do that — it’s not possible to maintain long term.”

The City of Vancouver stated that the East Hastings Eden site is not a licensed Compassion Club. Therefore, it operates with land use approval. That makes the current operation illegal. That it is, by implication “under enforcement action by the city for operating without a license.”

The location has not sold any cannabis on site for profit since opening. Rather, it focuses on the provision of cannabis for patients. That is part of the research initiative with UBC. Medical cannabis dispensaries have two options for application for permits and licenses.

One is the Medical marijuana Retail Use License, which is available for selling medical cannabis to the “broader public.” The other is a Compassion Club license. The latter is far cheaper. It is available for those operations that provide more health services to members alone.

With the harm reduction mandate of Eden, both licenses do not cover it. In fact, they do not cover the various needs of the Downtown Eastside.

Brennan, in description of the Eden program, explained, “It’s a very, very different model from just going in and grabbing your drugs… One of the things we’re doing here is mitigating social isolation… We’re creating a safe space for people to come in and say, ‘I’m struggling. I’m having a human experience.’” It is a common story.

Brennan stated, bleakly, that the location may not survive past the end of the current month. There is a change with the incoming cannabis as a tool for harm reduction mentality in th government.  One methodology could be the cannabis to replace opioids therapy, or the cannabis-based opioid substitution therapy.

“I think there are various ways to combat (opioid addiction),” she said. “I’m not saying cannabis is the ultimate solution. I’m saying cannabis is a significant harm-reduction option, and one that appeals to people.”

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Peel Health In-Process Data Collection for Opioid Strategy

Peel Health In-Process Data Collection for Opioid Strategy

Mississauga News reported on the Peel Health collecting data for opioid strategy. In the Peel community, the opioid-related deaths continue to rise. It amounts to a common, and more consistent and increasing, narrative throughout the nation. Peel Public Health will be collecting data, monitoring the data, and working to analyze the evidence in order to effectuate positive change within the community.

The purpose for this evidence basis is top expand the harm reduction provisions and the update the opioid strategy based on the current crisis. As stated in Mississauga News, “Peel’s opioid response is based on four pillars — prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement — Dr. Jessica Hopkins, Peel’s medical officer of health, recently told a meeting of regional council.”

The mortality rates lower than the provincial rates in Peel, which is in the province of Ontario. Between 2013 and 2015, the opioid-related deaths increased by two-fold in Peel. Mississauga Councillor Nando Iannicca talked about a recent visit to Vancouver. In that visit, Iannicca went to the safe-injection facility.

He opined, “I’ve never seen anything more depressing in my life… The human tragedy was the worst story. It was nothing like I’ve ever seen.” The Mississauga councillor pondered the juxtaposition of wealth in Canada and then the misfortune of so many. Iannicca called on the government to do more to help those with addictions.

Linda Jeffrey, the Brampton Mayor, stated that the HIV/AIDS Network made an announcement in March of 2018. That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care provided funding to them. The financial support is on a short-term basis. The money’s purpose is to support the operation of the temporary overdose prevention site by the four corner’s in Brampton.

It will open on April 3. Hopkins explained Peel Health did not make any recommendation for an application for funding in order to have the establishment of an overdose-prevention site. She noted, furthermore, work to community consultation, which was working needing to be done.

Elaine Moore, another Brampton Councillor, talked about the Peel Works Needle Exchange Program mobile van. Where the van may be a “willing host” for the overdose prevention services, however, Hopkins the units for public health do not amount to the lead agency. Those that treat individuals with addictions, but, rather, the Local Health Integration Networks did that work.

“In 2017, the Health Ministry provided LHINs with base funding to treat people with addictions,” the news article stated, “Last year, the Mississauga Halton LHIN expanded services for psychosocial treatment, withdrawal management and harm reduction and enhanced services like the community addiction liaison to the emergency-room program.”

Peel Health has a strategic framework with some initiatives. 2017 was the year when Peel Health got some funding from the Health Ministry in order to onboard new staff members and increase the harm reduction services available. Those services offered via Peel Works Needle Exchange Program mobile van.

The public health staff also began to distribute naloxone circa March 1 of 2017 with the provision by the van once more. “And, there has been an increase in the interactions with people through the Peel Works Needle Exchange Program. Peel Public Health is also working closely with Peel regional police, Caledon OPP, and federal and provincial Crown prosecutors on enforcement,” The report concluded, “Peel Public Health plans to present opioid-strategy recommendations to regional council in the spring.”

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Change the Word, Change the Stigma

Change the Word, Change the Stigma

The use of social media platforms can help reduce the stigma around opioid use based on reportage from CBC News. The Health Department of Nova Scotia continues to work with Health Canada and the province of British Columbia for the creation of a pilot project. The pilot initiative is intended to be released in the summer. The main purpose is to have a campaign in order to change public attitudes around drugs and drug use.

That is, this is meant to improve social attitudes in order to encourage drug users or those who know those who use drugs to get appropriate help as necessary. Ally Centre of Cape Breton Executive Director Christine Porter approved of the campaign. She said the withdrawal from the opioids is severe.

It may lead to increased illicit behaviour for those who go through the withdrawal, presmably to acquire more of the addicted-to substance.

The research points to opioid use disorders being capable of being treated through medicine. That makes the reduction of stigma, “criminal stigma,” important. It creates a barrier in compassion and can prevent users from go to seek help. It can force them into illegal or dangerous behaviour.

Porter stated, “It’s a disorder. It’s a disease, and one that can be treated, and one that we can find help for people instead of shunning them all and pushing them all into the corner… It’s not about a flu, or anything like that. It’s a terrible sickness that people endure, so, you know, it leads them to desperate measures, and unfortunately that’s where a lot of the stigma comes from.”

The words used, the labels for users and drugs, creates a stigmatizing language or set of words around opioid usage. For example, there is reference to opioid abuse or opioid addiction. People use opioid use disorder now. One reason: eople who need opioid medication in a legitimate, medicinal way use the opioids to deal with the chronic pain.

“A lot of education has to take place,” Porter explained, “People are still under the impression that substance use disorder or addiction is still a person’s choice, when we know and science knows, and lots of research has shown, that indeed that it is a disease… We absolutely have to change the language.”

The Chief Medical Officer of Health in Nova Scotia, Dr. Robert Strang talked about the ways in which opioid use disorder need treatment in a health care setting rather than becoming stigmatized. The resultant stigmatization makes some physicians reluctant to prescribe medications

The national prescription guidelines were updated, recently, to help with counteracting this pervasive stigma around drug use and opioids at this moment in time with the crises in various cities taking lives via overdose.

“The worst thing we can do is to actually push people to a street drug, or supply of opioids on the street, because now we’ve put them at much-increased risk for an overdose,” Strang opined, “…Stigma reduction is part of our opioid response plan, so we’re always happy to partner with others when there’s ability to share some costs, etc.”

There will be monitoring of the campaign. Dependent on failure or success, and degree of success if so, this will be “rolled out nationally.”  Strang described the ways in which this is coinciding with the harm reduction methodologies being employed in Nova Scotia with the introduction of “overdose antidote kits across the province.” (ed. I assume this means Naloxone kits.)

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Chat with Professor Gordon Guyatt on National Opioid Guidelines

Chat with Professor Gordon Guyatt on National Opioid Guidelines

Professor Gordon Guyatt, MD, MSc, FRCP, OC is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact and Medicine at McMaster University. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

The British Medical Journal or BMJ had a list of 117 nominees in 2010 for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Guyatt was short-listed and came in second-place in the end. He earned the title of an Officer of the Order of Canada based on contributions from evidence-based medicine and its teaching.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012 and a Member of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2015. He lectured on public vs. private healthcare funding in March of 2017, which seemed like a valuable conversation to publish in order to have this in the internet’s digital repository with one of Canada’s foremost academics.

For those with an interest in standardized metrics or academic rankings, he is the 14th most cited academic in the world in terms of H-Index at 222 and has a total citation count of more than 200,000. That is, he has the highest H-Index, likely, of any Canadian academic living or dead.

We conducted an extensive interview before: hereherehereherehere, and here. We have other interviews in Canadian Atheist (here and here), Humanist Voicesand The Good Men Project. This interview in Canadian Atheist does mean pro- or anti-religion/pro- or anti-non-religion. It amounts to a specific topical interview. Here we talk about national pharmacare.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: These opioid guidelines were the national ones. What was your own work here?

Professor Gordon Guyatt: There have been an over prescription of chronic non-cancer pain and a use of excessive doses of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. And, this has led to narcotic dependency. It has led to the narcotic associated deaths.

Everybody knows this is a problem. An earlier Canadian guideline in the days before people were really waking up to this, basically, did not say when to use opioids. It said, “If you decide to use opioids, what are the best ways? What are the guides for giving out the opioids?”

That might have been reasonable at the time. But, perhaps if anything, it contributed to the opioid overprescribing. So, a couple of years ago, and a few months ago produced, a national guideline for opioid use.

It starts out saying, “Before you use opioids, try non-steroidal, try drugs like Acetaminophen, try a number of other drugs such as those in the anticonvulsant class that have analgesic properties. Some antidepressants have analgesic properties. Bottom line: do not use opioids as your first, second, or third option. Try other things before you move to opioids.”

That was the first thing. The second thing we found out. Somewhat to our surprise: opioids were great for acute pain. If you give them for acute pain, they have substantial effects. But unfortunately, people get used to the opioids’ effects.

When you give opioids chronically, the effect is actually quite limited. On a visual analogue scale, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain that you have, chronic opioids lower your pain by only 1 unit: 6 to 5, 5 to 4.

Very modest effect, it has lots of side effects. So, the guidelines say, “Do not give large doses of opioids. No extra benefits, extra risks, if you are going to give opioids, first try everything else, then when you try this make the dose modest.”

It also gave guidelines for people currently stuck on opioids to help them reduce their opioid use, maybe get off opioids altogether. A whole set of recommendations for dealing with the over prescription of opioids.

That will hopefully lead to much better prescribing.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Sensible Cannabis Toolkit

Sensible Cannabis Toolkit

We are excited to share our newest resource, “Sensible Cannabis Education: A Toolkit for Educating Youth,” after 8 months of hard work. With legalization around the corner and drug policy crises around the world, it’s important we take smart first steps towards educating youth, starting with the evidence. We’d like to thank Canopy Growth Corporation for supporting this youth cannabis education project through an unrestricted grant to Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy!

 

Sensible approaches to legalization and education

Aligning with CSSDP’s mandate to support drug education efforts and building upon youth consultations on cannabis legalization conducted in Canada, this toolkit responds to calls for the development of realistic and evidence-based cannabis education for youth. Created for educators, as well as parents, this resource aims to support adults in having informed and non-judgmental conversations with young people.

Protecting youth

Given that cannabis remains the most popular illegal drug consumed by young people in Canada, as well as Canada’s pending legalization and regulation of cannabis, the development of new cannabis education for youth is of critical importance, and a key aspect of developing young people’s health literacy. The legalization of cannabis in Canada provides an opportunity to revise our approach to cannabis education for youth and consider pragmatic youth education which is inclusive of both prevention and harm reduction to maximize effectiveness and protect all youth.

Evidence-based education

Generally, the central purposes of drug education are to provide accurate information and awareness of resources, develop decision making skills and health literacy, reduce risks of consumption, and support increasing an individual’s risk competency. However, this toolkit goes beyond these mandates.

 

The Sensible Cannabis Education toolkit

The toolkit is broken into two parts. The first section highlights ten guiding principles for conducting cannabis education with young people. In this section, the concepts and values important to the delivery and implementation of cannabis education for youth are discussed. Although outlined in the context of cannabis, these principles are also applicable to education on other substances. Emerging from our review of the available literature, we offer ten guiding principles for cannabis education:

  • Education grounded in evidence-based information
  • Non-judgmental, open dialogue that uses interactive approaches
  • Meaningful inclusion
  • Delivery by a trained facilitator or peer
  • Starting education earlier with age-appropriate content
  • Supporting parents to have age appropriate and open conversations
  • Inclusion of harm reduction
  • Education tailored to the specific context
  • Ongoing education available to youth
  • Attention to overlapping issues of racism, social justice, and stigma

The second section focuses on content that merits inclusion in a comprehensive cannabis education curriculum for young people, including evidence-based information about cannabis, its use and effects, as well as harm reduction strategies. This is meant to help educators and parents familiarize themselves with cannabis and cannabis use, and can be used as a resource to assist in the information delivery component of a comprehensive cannabis education program. This section also addresses many common claims made about youth cannabis use, such as what the research can tell us about the impacts on the developing brain, the gateway theory, and provides educators with a background on legalization, particularly as it pertains youth, to help ground their approach. We believe this approach can allow for flexibility and provide insights into how youth cannabis education can be operationalized in practice, as well as further refined and improved.

Below, we highlight some key points from our review, in addition to our ten principles for approaching drug education. Happy reading!

The CSSDP Team

Key points around sensible cannabis education:

Legalization

Legal regulation of cannabis offers an opportunity for more pragmatic “cannabis conversations”– the same old approach repackaged will likely miss the mark.

Education

In light of relatively high use rates among youth, we need education within a legalized context which serves youth who don’t use cannabis – but also youth who are already using cannabis. Drug education and cannabis conversations should be inclusive of both prevention and harm reduction in order to maximize effectiveness and protect all youth. “Just say no” might work for some youth, some of the time, but does a disservice to youth who may already be using cannabis.

 

Youth inclusion

It’s critical to involve youth in program design and implementation to ensure key messaging resonates with their experiences – these approaches and programs must be prioritized.

Youth education

While there is no silver bullet approach to talking to youth, access to evidence based drug education is critical for young people, their health literacy and well-being – globally, pragmatic drug education is critical for young people to achieve the highest attainable standard of health.

Harm reduction

It is also important to note some youth will choose to use cannabis no matter what resource or information is provide – cannabis will remain an illegal substance for youth under the age of 18 or 19, but what can change is our approach to educating youth on what will be a legal and regulated substance in Canada.

Key points around harms:

Please see summary chart, p.67 of toolkit and full report (Section 2.5) for references.

Frequency

It’s important to acknowledge harms and risks around cannabis and youth is still developing, but most young people who use cannabis do so infrequently and do not experience significant harms.

Adult use

We need to consider how we can establish norms around “appropriate adult use” of cannabis much like we have with alcohol consumption.

More research

More long term controlled studies are needed to truly assess the impact of cannabis on youth and to make claims around causality, and much of the available literature pertains to samples of youth who are frequent or chronic cannabis use, which is not representative of the majority of youth who use cannabis.

Cognition

Research suggests a relationship exists between early, heavy cannabis use and impairments in cognition, as well as mental health outcomes, but any strong conclusions around causality (i.e. that cannabis was the direct cause of outcome), direction (i.e. which came first? are some youth more inclined to seek out risk behaviours?), and magnitude (i.e. strength of relationship) are not available, mostly due to lack or research.

Confounders

Critical to this conversation is thinking about the role of confounders which are not often accounted for in this discussion. For example, we know social demographics, such as socio-economic status, as well as the use of other substance use (such as alcohol), are critical to this conversation and outcomes (i.e. growing up in a poor neighbourhood or using alcohol also has impacts on brain development in and of themselves which are often not accounted for in this work).

IQ/Intelligence

Preliminary evidence suggests heavy cannabis use during youth may be linked to lower IQ, but there is also additional work to suggest this is reversed after a period of abstinence. Again, the research is unclear around if cannabis is the cause, and there is also evidence that suggests when confounders (such as socio-economic status) are considered, cannabis use is not associated with a decline in IQ or educational attainment.

Schizophrenia

Research has found an association between cannabis use and schizophrenia, but causality, direction, or strength of that relationship is still unclear. It may be the case that early initiation of cannabis use leads to an increased risk of early onset of schizophrenia, especially for those with a preexisting vulnerability and those who use cannabis daily. Third variables (i.e., sociodemographic factors, poly-substance use) make it more difficult to depict a clear picture. It may also be the case that some youth are using cannabis to alleviate symptoms of mental illness or to self-medicate.

The gateway theory

The majority of people who use cannabis do not transition to “harder” illegal drugs. While people who use cannabis (particularly early onset and/or regular users) are more likely to report having used other drugs compared to non-users, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of cannabis causes an increase in the risk of using other drugs. Some have suggested a variety of alternative explanations, such as thrill-seeking behaviours more generally.

Lung Cancer

The evidence of a causal relationship between cannabis and lung cancer remains inconclusive. The evidence is also limited because many relevant studies do not account for simultaneous tobacco use, which has a proven causal relationship to lung cancer. Studies have suggested tobacco and cannabis smoke are not equally carcinogenic.

Key risks

Finally, there is evidence to support that early onset of use and the frequency of use are key risk factors, and associated with the most adverse outcomes, including substance misuse. We believe a preventative approach is appropriate for youth, however, a preventative approach should not be mutually exclusive from offering youth additional tools such as harm reduction education and resources and critical to the protection of all youth.

Sensible Cannabis Education: A Toolkit for Educating Youth

Created for educators, as well as parents, this resource aims to support adults in having informed and non-judgmental conversations with young people about cannabis.

Update from the 61st Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Update from the 61st Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Written by Ailish Brennan, chapter founder/leader of University College Dublin SSDP

While the inherently frustrating nature of the United Nations and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs has been particularly prevalent throughout my time in Vienna, the inspirational nature of the civil society groups and young people present this week has shone throughout.

Positivity

The work by NGOs and other individual activists has kept me sane and motivated throughout all of these processes.

I had the pleasure of writing this blog post the same day some of the main youth-led NGO groups held their side events. Our own SSDP side-event entitled Youth, Drugs and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals allowed young people to lead the discussion for once instead of merely having our presence tokenized. The side event discussed why young people need to be meaningfully included in conversations around their health and well-being, specifically in the case of achieving the 2030 SDGs. Panelists Alex Betsos and Nazlee Maghsoudi presented the peer-led cannabis education model being developed by CSSDP, while Penny Hill of SSDP Australia discussed how youth inclusion in drug education makes it more likely several of the SDGs can be met on time. The very personal nature with which Orsi Fehér, chapter leader of SSDP Österreich, spoke was refreshing as she discussed her personal experience using drugs. In a space like the UN, hearing someone “come out” as a drug user can raise quite a few eyebrows. The discussion, co-sponsored by the Government of Canada, enabled civil society groups to speak from a position of genuine experience and discuss the importance of a movement towards a harm reduction model. Stressing the importance of a peer-based education model over the police-delivery model of the DARE program puts value in the voices of young people.

The event by YODA and YouthRISE directly after our event, titled Law Enforcement and Youth, brought a diverse panel of people again sharing their own experiences, from getting arrested as a young drug user in different parts of the world, to the other side of the handcuffs and having to deal with the arrest of your own brother as chief of police. A critical analysis of policies from Portugal to Australia showed that the problem of ineffectively dealing with drug use is present across the globe. Regardless of how the policies are labeled, the prohibitionist nature present in even the Portuguese “decriminalization” model invariably leads to unnecessary suffering.

Youth Voices

The need for the voices of young people has been brought into stark focus this week as we have been constantly reminded of the importance of “protecting youth” from the “scourge of drugs”, without input from people who use these drugs. The UNCND Youth Forum is an event which takes place coinciding with the main Convention and invites young people from member states to join the discussion and compile a statement to be made at the Plenary Sessions. This is a fantastic opportunity for young people to take part in the processes of the UN but it is one which anti-prohibitionist voices have been consistently excluded. Many of the young people I’ve spoken to from NGOs and Civil Society groups have recounted their stories of being denied entry to the discussion based on their views on decriminalization. The token use of youth voices to strengthen the argument against legalization should be condemned and has proven to be another motivating factor for many of the people we talk to in confronting the groups and delegations pushing for a “Drug-Free World.”

They Talk, We Die

A discussion on the frustrating nature of some of the processes at CND by our board member and International Liaison, Alex Betsos.

Back in 2017 the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs held a protest of Jane Philpott when she spoke at the Harm Reduction International Conference in Montreal. Canadian activists held up signs that said: “They Talk We Die”. The protest was to note that while Canada has made progress and done some good work in responding to the opioid crisis, any attempt by the government to pat themselves on the back was not only premature but disingenuous. While I appreciated the response from other drug policy reformers that the Canadian government was rather progressive in contrast to other countries, the sharp distinction between Canada and some other countries at the UN puts that discussion into better perspective. The Canadian Government has been pushing for a fairly progressive resolution on stigma*. Some civil society members I have met here have called the resolution on stigma, which notes that stigma can be a barrier for people who use drugs to access services, as a bold resolution*.

What is unfathomable is that while the Canadian government’s resolution on stigma has been stuck in private sessions (known as “informals”), with a lot of arguments from member states, it took less than an hour to schedule several fentanyl analogues, synthetic cannabinoids, and 4-fluoroamphetamine (4-FA) with nothing more than a few words from the World Health Organization. For a group of member states that have fought tooth and nail over the most minute details throughout the CND, not a single member state made comments about making any of these drugs illegal on an international level.

What impact will scheduling fentanyl analogues have on access to fentanyl when fentanyl has been internationally scheduled since the 1990s? From talking to a few people in Canada and also in the Netherlands (both of which have 4-FA scheduled), there is still interest from some people who use drugs in accessing 4-FA. To date, there have been no direct overdoses from 4-FA. Since 4-FA has been scheduled, other New Psychoactive Substances have come onto the market, including 4-fluoromethamphetamine, 2-Fluoramphetamine, and 3-fluoroamphetamine to name a few.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs reflects the reality that all people who use drugs know to be true. For five days, they talk: they talk to people who use drugs, about them, rarely with them, and while they do, our friends and love one’s continue to die.

Reprinted with permission from Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Day 1 of CND 2018

Day 1 of CND 2018

Before UNGASS 2016, some organizations and people involved in drug policy believed that the UNGASS document may change the game when it came to international drug policy. If those dreams were dampened somewhat, a fresh coat of water was necessary for CND 2018. Many of the opening I watched contained language such as “the scourge of drugs,” “the world drug problem” and “protecting the youth” (without noting any youth in the discussion). Yet, there were glimmers of hope. Before CND started we were told that there were two main camps at CND, those who support the “drug free world” document of 2009, and those that supported the more progressive UNGASS document. The European Union came out in strong support of the UNGASS 2016 document, and also noted their continued support for ending the death penalty.

“We Can Live With That”

A side event with a name like: “Responding to new methods of synthetic drug trafficking,” clearly provides no angle for drug reform, yet there were some noteworthy points that came out of it. For example, drug sniffing dogs can now find fentanyl packages in the mail. Yet, even with those drug sniffing dogs, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues still manage to get into both the United States and Canada. Other discussions included more international cooperation in advancing the data collection, and cooperation in sharing tactics that people who sell drugs use around the world. The question that follows is, if we cannot stop these drugs that are causing so many deaths, to what degree does limiting a few packages of fentanyl, when 2 or 3 packages of fentanyl out of 10 is still a large quantity. Limiting the supply only encourages drug manufacturers to use stronger synthetic opioids; while other packages of drugs that are larger in size being more likely to be caught and making those drug supplies more dangerous for the consumer as well.

During a discussion on the resolution: “Strengthening efforts to prevent drug use in educational settings,” several delegates described their ability to accept certain amendments to paragraphs with the phrase “we can live with that.” While there are people dying because of the failed war on drugs, when youth are largely not consulted in discussions about them and their educational settings, the phrase “we can live with that” carries an underlying acceptability of things that people around the world may be dying from. The discussion itself was rather slow; there was a distinct gap between countries that focused heavily on the sustainable development goals and human rights and other countries. Who can live with the decisions made at the UN. The resolution focuses on helping youth stay away from drugs, a position most drug reformers would agree with.

Canada’s plenary statement was fairly progressive. They reaffirmed their commitment to legalizing cannabis, as well as explicitly noting harm reduction as an important part of Canada’s drug strategy. What was more disappointing is their commitment to add more drugs to the international Scheduling system. While fentanyl analogues, synthetic cannabinoids and 4-FA are all scheduled in Canada under our analogue act, international restrictions could cause more problems for people who use drugs than they would solve. If anything, Canada’s own system, which relies on scheduling drugs by their pharmacological similarity, proves the failure of these systems. Fentanyl and all of its analogues have been scheduled in Canada since 1996, yet it has been the epicenter of the fentanyl crisis in North America.

Side-event: Saving lives by ending the drug war

Here is a discussion of another side panel by our colleague Sara Velimirovic – Students for Sensible Drug Policy

“We are tired of counting the dead.”

This is one of the conclusions of MC, an activist from the Philippines, in addressing the member states delegates and civil society at the side-event of the CND “Saving lives by ending the drug war,” organized by the Government of the Czech Republic, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation and the International Drug Policy Consortium.

She informed the room that since July to September 2017 police has murdered around 2,000 people in Duterte’s drug war campaign. Even more worrying is the fact of over 16,000 murders currently under investigation that, combined with other cases, amount to more than 20,000 extra-judicial killings to this date in the Philippines. She pointed out several cases of lawyers having been murdered for participating in drug court cases, which leads to a situation where lawyers are ‘thinking twice’ before getting involved in future cases.

Jidrih Voboril, progressive national drug coordinator of the Czech Republic, took the floor to offer information on his country’s policy of liberalization – resulting in prisons that are in fact not crowded which stands out compared to the region -, and harm reduction -resulting in a drop in Hepatitis C cases from 70% to 15% among injecting users. Further, Voboril pointed out all countries of the EU, as well as candidate countries where policy tends to spillover, are moving towards decriminalization in operational sense – if not in legislation.

Ann Fordham declared decriminalization as an important and feasible next first step for Member States, defined as removing criminal (including criminal liability, criminal records and prison time), as well as administrative punishment (including a fine) for using drugs. To date some 27 countries have already instituted some form of decriminalization. She pointed out research shows the deterrent effect has failed to produce results intended by the UN conventions, as we are now aware drug use is independent from drug policy of a given country, but the harm bore by drug users is not.

Brun Gonzales spoke as a drug user about how drugs – that we as a global community have relatively recently banned – have enjoyed so important a role in our societies that ancestors have carved them in stone to relate this wisdom and technologies. This idea of traditional uses of these substances, he points out, has been conceptually removed from what we today call international drug policy. He concluded that the “best way to honour the dead of the drug war is to end it.”

In responding to a question from Olga about how to talk to countries that almost completely unreceptive to changing the policy of a drug-free world, J. Voboril, a longtime diplomat, pointed out that involvement of civil society is very important and can make a difference, that media is a very important way to provide names and faces to the victims of the drug war and for the public to hear their voices, and lastly, policy evidence should be consistently used by advocates who argue for reform.

Alex Betsos

Alex Betsos

Advisor

A sociology and anthropology undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University, Alex was on the board of directors with CSSDP since November 2013, was Co-Chair of CSSDP SFU chapter since September 2013, and his interests in drug policy revolve around how drug policy directly impacts individuals, as well as the larger electronic dance subculture. Find out more.

Vienna Youth Summit: On the Ground

Vienna Youth Summit: On the Ground

Every year in Vienna, 53 member states attend the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). Government bodies, and civil societies flock to the historical city; it’s notably a time where few serious progressive reforms are made. Other than this past year in 2017, CSSDP has sent students involved on the national board to CND since 2014.

This, however, is a special year. For the first time the Canadian delegation is actively supporting civil society at CND. Over the past months, we, the Canadian delegation has helped to co-sponsor an event with CSSDP, SSDP and SSDP Australia on March 14th. Over the next several days we will be writing blog posts covering CND to help Canadian students understand the process of the UN, its impacts on international law, and what exactly happens every year over these five days. While CND actually starts Monday, March 12, students who interested in drug policy had other events planned for the preceding weekend.

Vienna Youth Summit: Sensible Drug Strategies

This year SSDP’s chapter in Austria held its first (and hopefully annual) event titled: “Vienna Youth Summit: Sensible Drug Strategies.” The workshop was meant to cover various aspects of CND for those who could attend and those who couldn’t. The one-day workshop covered various topics, including youth peer education, information about drug laws in Europe and internationally, the economics of the war on drugs, as well as a panel on youth harm reduction, co-hosted by yours truly, and Ailish Brennan from SSDP Ireland. Throughout the day we had a fairly open discussion, explaining the various drug laws, discussing harm reduction, and getting to know the various youth activists, their projects interests and goals.

Understanding international drug treaties

To understand the importance of CND, it is important to understand what helped to create our current international drug regime. There are three major treaties that have helped to establish our current international drug policy, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic substances and the 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Jake Agliata from SSDP noted that the first convention, while in part was intended to consolidate previous drug legislation at the international level, was also intended by the United States to be an international form of control. Pre-1961 some UN member states did not have drugs such as opioids regulated. Canada, however, has long been an adherent to various drug laws, as our own federal laws for opium and cocaine have actually existed since 1908. Interestingly, Agliata and his co-presenter Sara Velimirovic that few countries wish to break consensus on the drug treaties, as they are one of the few documents that have strong support from various member states.

The second panel dug deeper into European politics, specifically in relation to Syrbia, and the farcical interplay between international drug governing bodies and local countries. Irena Molnar, explained to us how countries that wish to join the EU will sometimes create governing bodies that actually have limited capabilities in data collection and impact for people who use drugs. What was interesting was how the particularities of the EU bodies that govern drug-related issues became clearer, and the areas in which Canada is actually lagging behind. While Molnar noted that though the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has an ‘early-warning system’ in place, the ‘early warning system’ is not particularly early; it can take up to a month for a novel psychoactive substance (research chemical, or NPS) to actually be discussed. In contrast, as far as I am aware, Canada has no such system in place, and our primary method of obtaining data about new drugs on the market is from the police, which may or may not be representative of the actual drug market in Canada.

On the ground and online

There is something fantastic about getting to meet youth activists. Their engagement and passion with ending the war on drugs is always like the first cup of coffee in the morning; that little jolt that pulls one out of their dogmatic slumber. This is not the last event for SSDP’s Vienna Chapter. Tomorrow, they aim to have a rally, with DJs and a drug talk, just another way of showing how students can be involved in so many different projects on the ground-level.

Once CND starts, I will be on the ground at the UN every day. As this is not accessible for all Canadian youth (or Canadians more broadly, as there are a lot of hoops to jump through to even be allowed in), I will be live-tweeting every day at the conference and posting blog articles every second day.

If anyone has specific panels that they would like me to attend you can either contact me by email (alexb@cssdp.org) or on twitter @AlexInNederland.

Alex Betsos

Alex Betsos

Advisor

A sociology and anthropology undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University, Alex was on the board of directors with CSSDP since November 2013, was Co-Chair of CSSDP SFU chapter since September 2013, and his interests in drug policy revolve around how drug policy directly impacts individuals, as well as the larger electronic dance subculture. Find out more.

Jason Kenney Speaks on Harm Reduction

Jason Kenney Speaks on Harm Reduction

Jason Kenney, the Alberta United Conservative Party, made comments in previous weeks about opposition to the supervised injection sites if he became the premier of Alberta. Of course, this is changing more recently.

Alberta is constructing sites for safe, healthy consumption of drugs in order to deal with the deaths linked to opioids. Kenney has expressed direct opposition to harm reduction methodologies including the aforementioned.

Kenney thinks treatment and enforcement would be a better solution because the other methods, which do amount to harm reduction methods, would assist in the spending of money for more consumption of drugs by Canadian citizens in Alberta.

In a Twitter post, Kenney tweeted, “We absolutely need to show compassion for those suffering with addiction, and we need to help them get off drugs. But helping addicts inject poison into their bodies is not a long-term solution.”

Following this, potentially based on the reaction and feedback from some sectors of the public, he said, “I’m not saying I’m opposed to reasonable harm reduction efforts, but I am saying that we need to be realistic about this… We obviously respect the authority of the court in this respect, with one caveat. I would want properly to consult with local communities about the placement of facilities.”

He is noted to have acknowledged that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled “governments have the obligation to license supervised consumption sites.”

One of the UCP leader’s objections was to the density of the consumption sites in Edmonton, where he says that the local business owners and residents should have the right to decide on the sites being established in their local communities or not.

He does disagree on the harm reduction methodologies as the preferred means to solve the opioid crises, especially the deaths, but has taken, recently and in contrast to prior weeks, a light “tone” on consumption sites in particular.

One of Kenney’s preferred methods would be harsher penalties for drug dealers, more associated with the punitive rather than the harm reduction approaches to substance misuse.

“The notion that this is a panacea for the consumption of some of these really toxic opioids is, I think, a bit naïve,” Kenney opined.

Health Canada approved several consumption sites in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge as well as needs assessments ongoing in Edson, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, and Red Deer.

“Activists and public health officials have hailed supervised consumption sites as a life-saving, if stopgap, component in the response to the overdose crisis,” Little reported.

References

Bellefontaine, M. (2018, March 8). Kenney to take his seat as UCP leader, as Alberta legislature starts spring session. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/kenney-seat-ucp-leader-alberta-legislature-spring-sessin-1.4566967.

Bennett, D. (2018, March 2). Alberta government, Opposition clash on ethics of safe drug consumption sites. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/4059488/alberta-government-safe-consumption-sites-opioids/.

Karim, M. (2018, March 2). Jason Kenney criticized over safe consumption site comments. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/4059919/jason-kenney-criticized-supervised-consumption-sites/.

Little, S. (2018, March 5). ‘I’m not saying I’m opposed’: Kenney walks back tough talk on supervised consumption sites. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/4064454/im-not-saying-im-opposed-kenney-walks-back-tough-talk-on-supervised-consumption-sites/.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Dr. Anne Wagner on the Psychedelic Career Day Panel and Her Work

Dr. Anne Wagner on the Psychedelic Career Day Panel and Her Work

Image Credit: Anne Wagner/Evidence-Based Therapy, Training & Testing.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was the outcome of the panel for Psychedelic Career Day?

Dr. Anne Wagner: It was an interesting and well-received conversation. Lots of different questions in terms of the folks taking part and attending on diverse ways in which careers can be had in the field.

There was a lot of interest on clinical applications within the field, e.g. becoming a clinical psychotherapist in the field. We were there for 3.5 hours. We had a presentation by Dr. Ben Sessa and then answered folks’ questions.

Jacobsen: With respect to your own presentation, what were some of the questions asked of you in particular?

Wagner: Unfortunately [Laughing], I did not take notes, so this will be a bit harder to answer. Folks were asking me about the training to be a psychedelic researcher, the opportunities available regarding the research, the trajectory to becoming involved in this area, and so on.

I talked about how I am a PTSD development researcher. As a clinical psychologist, primarily, we were invited – my mentor and I – to develop this protocol that combined Cognitive Behavioural Conjoint Therapy with MDMA to see if that would yield helpful results.

The idea being that I did not seek this out but landed in this area. I was very clear that if this area is of interest, develop a skill-set that will support the work that you want to do in this area, therapist training or training in some other area that might be helpful, e.g., lots of lawyers work in this area or other folks with different skill-sets like project management.

I gave an overview of my trajectory.

Jacobsen: When it comes to some of the MDMA research in a clinical setting, what are some of the more cutting-edge aspects of the research that may be of interest to undergraduates looking into that area and even high school students?

Wagner: One area that is interesting is the combination of MDMA with psychotherapies that are already stand-alone psychotherapies. A lot of the work with MDMA and psychotherapy up until now has been with non-directive supportive psychotherapies, which would draw upon the skill sets and the best clinical skills of the providers – but they are not based on a treatment in and of itself that would be, for example, used to treat PTSD.

The theorizing I am doing is about combining things we know that work for a good segment of the population and adding MDMA into that as an adjunct to see if we can improve outcomes. It is to deepen and create breadth in our understanding how MDMA and other compounds work in terms of the psychotherapeutic process.

With MDMA, the offer of the opportunity to have this optimal zone of arousal, where you are activated enough to be able to experience emotion and sit with it and so that you are not fearful of those emotions, which is helpful with PTSD.

PTSD is clearly linked with avoidance, so to be able to feel your feelings and to have that experience in an MDMA session potentially adds something important to a trauma-focused treatment. I think that is a particularly interesting way forward for the treatment.

We did this pilot trial of this couple’s treatment, Cognitive Behavioural Conjoint Therapy for PTSD. I will be doing another pilot study with Cognitive Processing Therapy, which is an individual treatment for PTSD, with MDMA.

Then there is team in the US lead by Barbara Rothbaum who is going to be combining prolonged exposure with MDMA. All three of those protocols with Cognitive Behavioural approaches will be interesting to triangulate the data to show how these different interventions that we already use in practice that do have effects: what will happen when we combine with MDMA?

Jacobsen: What are the common variables or factors – I guess we can precisely say – positively correlate with preceding PTSD – or more colloquially – cause PTSD? What are those pathways for someone ending up with PTSD? With MDMA in particular, what are the pathways in the brain to reduce those symptoms of that disorder?

Wagner: We conceptualize PTSD as a disorder of impeded recovery. The idea is that when someone experiences a traumatic event, many people will develop symptoms that look like PTSD right away if the event is severe enough. Many will continue on this course of natural recovery, and will go back to baseline. Some will not follow that natural recovery as a trajectory. The idea is that conceptually, especially with Cognitive Behavioural treatment, is that there have been difficulties with memory reconsolidation but also making meaning of the event.

There is something that has gotten stuck in terms of that recovery trajectory. The idea with our current best treatments is that they are both exposure-based like CBCT (that offers approach assignments to things that people avoid when they have PTSD) and prolonged exposure (which offers an exposure literally to the memory of the event), and use cognitive approaches that make meaning of the trauma and associated thoughts that might be associated with it: blame, acceptance, trust, control, power, intimacy, and the like. The idea with combining the treatments with MDMA is that MDMA has strong effects on the brain with the release of certain neurotransmitters that allow a more easeful experience.

As well, there is activation of the prefrontal cortex and a quieting, if you will, of the amygdala. The amygdala is very heightened in PTSD. It is the fight, flight, freeze response that goes alongside a traumatic event or stimuli.

It is like this alarm system that does not go off afterward with PTSD. When that is quieted with the help of MDMA, it is experiencing and feeling what it is to not have that alarm system go off at quite the same rate and to experience the feelings that go alongside the trauma.

We facilitate this with treatments without MDMA. But the question is, “Can you help more people or others who have not been helped with these treatments using MDMA as well?”

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Wagner.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-Large/Writer

(Last Update: September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

He published in American Enterprise InstituteAnnaborgiaConatus NewsEarth Skin & EdenFresh Start Recovery CentreGordon Neighbourhood HouseHuffington PostIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based JournalJolly DragonsKwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology DepartmentLa Petite MortLearning Analytics Research GroupLifespan Cognition Psychology LabLost in SamaraMarijuana Party of CanadaMomMandyNoesis: The Journal of the Mega SocietyPiece of MindProduction ModeSynapseTeenFinancialThe PeakThe UbysseyThe Voice MagazineTransformative DialoguesTreasure Box KidsTrusted Clothes.

Radical Harm Reduction Out of the Woods

Radical Harm Reduction Out of the Woods

According to the University of Victoria, some radical harm reduction practices have begun to be brought into the public eye.

For examples, and a contrast, one methodology of harm reduction can be considered non-radical, which is the provision of safe needle exchange programs in specific areas of a neighbourhood. Another aspect could include on-site trained staff and Naloxone in case of overdoses for those in need of it.

The other, or as is called radical harm reduction in some reportage, is the use of the substance, at least in the case of alcohol, to curb the negative side effects of the substance in an individual’s unfortunate addiction.

A peer-reviewed academic journal has been compiling, and is reported to have completed the task, a list of the peer-reviewed literature on MAPs or Managed Alcohol Programs, which amount to the provision of measured doses of alcohol throughout the day in individuals with severe addiction to alcohol.

Given the descriptor “radical,” this, of course, does amount to a controversial program of action or branch of harm reduction methodology. But this goes back to a question about the evidence, especially the high quality peer-reviewed evidence. What does it say about MAPs in particular and radical harm reduction methodologies in general?

Drug and Alcohol Review published a special issue with four papers by researchers “at the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR, formerly CARBC) from the Canadian Managed Alcohol Program Study(CMAPS), which looks at data from approximately 380 individual MAP participants and controls across the country—the largest study ever conducted.”

Bernie Pauly and Tim Stockwell at the University of Victoria, the CMAPS Principal Investigators, reported that these amount to the most significant set of publication findings in relation to the work of MAPs.

They wrote, “It’s intended to stimulate debate and focus future research on strategies to improve outcomes for this vulnerable and often under-serviced population.”

Pauly said, “The initial results are promising in reducing acute and social harms as well as economic costs… We also need to take a closer look at how we can better provide culturally appropriate care to Indigenous people and more relevant services for women.”

The work by CISUR through MAPs is seen as a “made-in-Canada harm-reduction approach,” which continues to gain recognition in the local and global arenas. Community partners are assisting with their work.

References

Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. (2018). Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/cisur/.

The Canadian Managed Alcohol Program Study (CMAPS). (2018). The Canadian Managed Alcohol Program Study (CMAPS). Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/cisur/projects/map/index.php.

Shore, R. (2018, February 20). Radical harm reduction for illicit alcohol may save lives, studies find. Retrieved from http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/radical-harm-reduction-for-illicit-alcohol-may-save-lives-studies-find.

University of Victoria News. (2018, February 19). Radical harm reduction: coming out from under the radar. Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/news/topics/2018+cisur-managed-alcohol-programs+media-release.

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Psychedelic Career Day: March 3, 2018

Psychedelic Career Day: March 3, 2018

Psychedelic Career Day is hosted by the Toronto Psychedelic Society on March 3, 2018 via Zoomm in a webinar. There will, in addition to the Zoom webinar, be a live event hosted at the University of Toronto.

The Keynote address will be by Dr. Ben Sessa. After the keynote address by Dr. Sessa, the Psychedelic Career Day will be hosted by Daniel Greig from Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. The panel will include individuals including Rita Kočárová, David Wilder, Dr. Anne Wagner, Trevor Millar, and Alison McMahon.

Many people interested in psychedelia can go by the title “psychonauts.” One reason for this event is to discuss and present the experiences of those who have gone into the world and build a life for themselves in areas less well-trodden. How do you build an academic or professional career in the realm of psychedelia?

Psychdelic Career Day is one effort to bridge that gap and define some paths forward, especially in the university research system for work and investigation in-depth into psychedelics.

You can find more information out about the event here:

Events

Good wishes and see you there!

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

David Wilder Interview on Psychedelic Career Day

David Wilder Interview on Psychedelic Career Day

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you become interested in the discipline of psychedelia?

David Wilder: I was actually pretty opposed to all drug use when I grew up and it wasn’t until I got to college and began experimenting with drinking alcohol that I loosened up enough to try cannabis a few times. It didn’t have much effect on me the first few times (probably because I wasn’t actually inhaling properly), and eventually the people I was hanging out with bought some salvia divinorum to try. Without any knowledge of what I was getting into, I joined them one time while they were smoking the extract and ended up having an extremely intense out-of-body experience where I was looking down on myself from above. That experience threw me for quite a loop and gave me a lot to think about. Later that summer I traveled to Europe and purchased some psilocybin mushrooms from a smart shop in Amsterdam. I ate them and had a life-changing transformative trip which showed me quite a few things that I needed to work on. When I got back to America, I became somewhat obsessed with learning as much as I could about psychedelics, reading lots of books, watching tons of videos, and listening to podcasts about psychedelics. It’s been over ten years since that summer back in college and I’m still consuming a lot of psychedelic content to learn as much as I can.

Jacobsen: What is the purpose and content of Psychedelic Career Day?

Wilder: This event is designed to facilitate a conversation about how people can create a career related to psychedelics. I’m a freelance writer that spends a significant amount of time writing about psychedelics, and the rest of the panel consists of psychedelic researchers, an event organizer, an entrepreneur, and a ibogaine facilitator. I’m very interested in what these panelists have to say about their own careers, and hope that as a group we are able to give some inspiration to people out there who are wondering what type of psychedelic career they can create.

Jacobsen: You have a wide range of interests including “music, reading and writing, plant-based diets, fitness, meditation and yoga, psychoactive drugs, gardening, alternative economics and self-development.” How does Think Wilder provide an outlet these?

Wilder: My blog Think Wilder is a place where I can write about my interests in an effort to spread information to others. I have a weekly “This Week in Psychedelics” column where I link to a wide variety of psychedelic-related articles that show up each week in the news. Some of these articles focus on the risks that can come from taking psychedelics, while others delve into their benefits. The column is intended to catalogue how psychedelics are presented by the mass media, which includes everything from the latest scientific research to misinformation. I also write a weekly “Weekend Thoughts” column, which briefly talks about some of the things that have happened in the previous week. That column tends to focus a lot on news about technology, which is another topic I’m very interested in. In addition to those two weekly columns, I have published a few “how to” articles about various meditation techniques and several book reviews that cover the topics that you mentioned. Ultimately, my blog is a place for me to work on my writing ability and express the things that I’m thinking about to the wider world.

Jacobsen: What will be your own contribution to the panel?

Wilder: I will be speaking for 5-10 minutes about my personal background and history with psychedelics before diving into some of the tips and tricks that I wrote about in my “Continuing Further Education with Psychedelics” article that is published on Psychedelic Times and then talking about a few psychedelic careers that are options for people who want to create a psychedelic career. Although I don’t have the same wealth of professional experiences with psychedelics that the other panelists have, I’m hoping that talking about my story as a freelance writer will help upcoming psychedelic content creators to think about how they can carve out their own careers.

Jacobsen: How do you hope to help the younger generations explore the world of psychedelia?

Wilder: My hope is that we see a lot of different types of careers bloom out of the psychedelic community. One potential path that younger people can take is to study psychedelics in college and become psychedelic researchers or trained therapists that can help people integrate their psychedelic experiences. In addition, some people may want to get involved with drug policy work, while others could become content creators and help expand the conversation about psychedelics even further. It’s an exciting time to be involved, because although there are a ton of options available to pursue.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Wilder: I think that about sums it up for me. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, and I am looking forward to participating in the webinar!

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Interview with Daniel Greig of CSSDP on Psychedelic Career Day

Interview with Daniel Greig of CSSDP on Psychedelic Career Day

Image Credit: Daniel Greig.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Psychedelic Career Day, what is the event? Why is it important for those interested in entering the career of the discipline of psychedelia?

Daniel Greig: The career day is a panel of a bunch of people who are working within the field of psychedelic research and, more broadly, they research with substances traditionally considered either recreational or not useful given the history of drug laws.

So, we do have one panelist focusing on cannabis. But the majority are focused on doing the research or writing about the research in the Psychedelic Rennaissance. It is the reintroduction of psychedelics into research settings.

There will be many jobs opening up in relation to this field of study. It has been rocky trying to do this research over the last 40 or 50 years because of the strict legal restrictions on utilizing a lot of these compounds.

Those have been loosened. The general public has moved to from away from being fearful about psychedelic compounds. The benefits are becoming known about for e.g. DMT, Ketamine, and MDMA.

MDMA has been given breakthrough therapy status by the FDA in the United States, a huge change compared to the approach in the 90s where MDMA was demonized as the rave drug.

The common example of that is where you would see: “This is your brain on drugs. These drugs make holes in your brain.” That is the discourse we have been having to put up with for a long time.

Nowadays, there is less of that and more positive information coming out, more objective information coming out. The objective case is these are positive for wellbeing in a number of ways.

A lot of people and students especially are interested in that.  This panel is important for giving people the tools they need to pursue careers in this field within legitimate institutions, within Academia and therapeutic contexts.

This panel is about bringing the information to a bunch of eager and willing people who want to work in this field, making it more possible that they can do that effectively.

Jacobsen: With respect to the panelists who were invited to the one you will be hosting, what will be the things that they will be bringing to that panel in general?

Greig: A lot of these people are new for me to talk to. I am familiar with Ben Sessa’s work. He is a longrunning and published author on the effects of MDMA in psychotherapy. 

He even started the Breaking Convention Conference in the United Kingdom. I am really interested to talk to him and see his experience in the field and the things he has been able to get up to in this fairly restricted field up until this point.

David Wilder, he is a blogger. So, a bit more of a casual perspective on what sorts of jobs are available in the field because there are plenty of people interested in psychedelics as a philosophical starting point.

He explores psychedelics, spirituality, technology, and self-development.  He does a lot of educational events related to his writing work. That is also an interesting avenue for people to be engaging in this research. What are the implications of psychedelics more generally for our technological society?

Also, Anne Wagner, I am familiar with her work. She is a great speaker and has an excellent perspective on this.

She works out of Ryerson University. She is working on research work with MDMA and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is more of an institutional figure, someone with a research and medical background. This is what a lot of people are going to be looking for when having careers of this kind.

Then we also have Trevor Millar who is an entrepreneur. He does his own Ibogaine facilitation as far as I understand. He makes that available to people. It will be interesting to get that perspective as well because there are people looking for legal ways to integrate people into having psychedelic healing, which isn’t quite on the table right now for the widespread population – in typical legal avenues.

We have a little bit of everything here. A good diversity of focus on different areas, different subsets, of psychedelic research. The Ibogaine experience is different from the MDMA experience is different from the cannabis experience.

As a result, there are a lot of different pathways for people to work with those compounds in different ways. We have a good array of voices to look forward to.

Jacobsen: For those with an interest in following through on not necessarily attendance at Psychedelic Career Day, though that will be a valuable venue for them to gather some information as well as meet some of the personalities, what other resources can facilitate their own self-exploration into the psychedelic world?

Greig: I would start with recommending with getting on the mailing list for all of the research institutions that are working on this stuff. You have MAPS Canada. If you give a donation, you will receive information on their research and events they are affiliated with.

That is a good way to keep in the loop. There is also The Beckley Foundation. You can keep up with them for updates on their research and events. they often collaborate with the organization MAPS as well.

They were both major contributors to the Psychedelic Science Conference that happens regularly in California. On top of keeping up to date with these research bodies, it is also important to stay in the know and connected to the community around you.

Whether that means attending conferences in your area that are related to psychedelics, in Toronto, there is more of that happening. I host the Mapping the Mind with Mushrooms Conference every September. It happens at the University of Toronto.

There was a recent one called From Microdosing to Mystical Experiences hosted by the Toronto Psychedelic Society. Those things are a great way to keep in the loop. I know there are similar events in Vancouver because MAPS Canada has their headquarters in Vancouver.

It is a fruitful ground for a lot of educational events and community integration events. If you do not have access to those things, there are more psychedelic societies popping up.

One started in Hamilton, Ontario and another in Toronto, recently. One of the reason this career panel is so widespread and available across the globe is because of the interactive network of psychedelic societies. 

Getting involved with that is a good way of linking into the network and fostering ideas about psychedelics, self-exploration in regards to that, and the network is the most important thing, I think.

If you want to do the work in this field, you have to know the people; it is a great way to facilitate the efficacy of the psychedelic movement.

If you are a student at a university and want to be working in this, it is good to be open to the potential professors and supervisors in your area. One of the best resources you have, if you want to be working for psychedelics, is yourself. You as an individual can help bring psychedelic compounds back into the institution by being forward about the backing that we have from empirical research, proposing an independent study or research projects that you can be collaborating on with your supervisors or professors. 
That will ultimately be the most helpful thing. It is taking those steps to make things happen.

Jacobsen: The end. Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Daniel.

 

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Interview with Trevor Millar – Founder, Liberty Root Therapy Ltd.

Interview with Trevor Millar – Founder, Liberty Root Therapy Ltd.

Image Credit: Vancourier.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was the basis for the invitation to the panel for Psychedelic Career Day? What are you hoping to bring to it in general terms?
 
Trevor Millar: I was a speaker at the Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum held in October a couple of years ago in Victoria. That is where I met Bradley Foster who invited me to be a part of the upcoming Career Day. My company is called Liberty Root Therapy Ltd. (www.libertyroot.net) We have been operating it for the last 4 years providing the psychedelic plant medicine Ibogaine to those who feel called to it and qualify.
We work mostly with opioid addicts, as it is a powerful addiction interrupter. Since last May, I have not been doing much hands on work as there have been some regulatory changes in Canada. I have been focused on the big picture on how we can make this medicine available to more people.
To what I give to this panel, I have the unique experience of actually running a business in Canada giving psychedelics to people, legally, with Health Canada knowing about it. I bring a unique perspective having operated a company that has given psychedelic therapy to more than 200 people.
 
Jacobsen: How does Ibogaine work to be an addiction interrupter?
 
Millar: The backstory is that it comes from the Iboga shrub. It has been used ceremonially for centuries in Africa in the Bwiti tradition. They claim the pygmies gave it to them. It is used ‘in the jungle’ for healing on many levels as well as initiation into adulthood and the tribe in general.
In 1962, a heroin addict in New York City by the name of Howard Lotsof had a chemist buddy who knew that he would try anything. He asked him to try Ibogaine, and he did.  This sent him on a long psychedelic trip, it can be as long as 36-hours, but when he came out the other end he realized he hadn’t wanted heroin the whole time he’d been on it, nor did he want it anymore.  That is when its anti-addictive properties were discovered.
He became a champion for the medicine and got the right people to pay attention to some degree. He founded the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance and established some standards of care. I was recently the Executive Director of that organization.  (www.ibogainealliance.org)
It seems to scrub the opiate receptors and bring people to an opiate naive state. We treat mostly opioid addicts; it helps to interrupt any negative pattern a person wants to overcome including most drugs.
But it works especially well for opioids. It helps people get off the drug without the pain of withdrawal, which can drag out for months and months. We bring clients in for 10 days.
We have a doctor working with us to prescribe morphine. a short-acting opioid, so they would be on that for the first day or so to stabilize.
Then we tend to low dose with Ibogaine for one or two days. The way that works is somebody wakes up in the morning, has a bit of withdrawal, and then we give them a small dose of Ibogaine and the withdrawals are taken away for 4-6 hours.
When the withdrawals come back, we put them back on morphine. Because the Ibogaine has done some of its work, we only need to go in with about half as much of the opioid. We do that for a couple of days and ween them off the opiate as much as possible before the next day, which is when we bring in a registered nurse and do the ‘flood dose’ of Ibogaine.
This is the full 36-hour long experience. As I said, we bring in a registered nurse. Ibogaine is potentially deadly. There is a big screening process prior to bringing any clients come in, including an ECG to check their heart as well as blood work.
During that 36-hour long experience, it is, as far as I as a non-patient is concerned, a person lying on a bed. But the first 8-12 hours a person will go through something that’s been called an oneiric experience, or “as related to dreams.”

As with many psychedelic psychotherapies, you may relive past traumatic events, but see it from a different context so some forgiveness may happen there. It is hard to describe the experience adequately.

The first 6-12 hours contains most of the ‘bells and whistles’, then the following 24 provides a lot of time to reflect. Eventually they’ll get some sleep and if we need to do it, we can give some booster medicine if there are any other withdrawals.
For the most part, after the flood, they are physically free of opiates. Generally, the cravings have disappeared. Withdrawal from opiates is normally dire pain for anywhere from a couple days to a couple months with some of post-acute symptoms often extending six months or more.  With Ibogaine most of this is addressed in a few days. It’s such a gift.
It is amazing to see. People still to have decisions to make out the other end of the treatment, so it is not a 100% success rate overall. We see long-term in the unscientific studies that we have done out of Liberty Root a 60-65% success rate treating these addicts.
It blows regular addiction statistics out of the water. That number correlates with the general consensus around the success of Ibogaine. Some of the more scientific studies done tend to show around a 50% success rate on average.
Jacobsen: How might this apply to the opioid epidemic ongoing in the country at the moment?
 
Millar: It is a really great solution!
Jacobsen: [Laughing].
 
Millar: The way Ibogaine has been classified for the last 4 or 5 years when I was working with it. It was classified as a natural health product within Canada. That meant that it was regulated to a certain degree, but wasn’t regulated to the point where a person would be breaking a law by using it.
In May, it was put on the prescription drug list. I think it is where it should be because it is potentially dangerous. A natural health product should not be potentially dangerous. It is good that it was put on the prescription drug list.
But in order to be available, it needs to get a drug identifier number. To get that drug identifier number, you need to have the stage 1, 2, 3 clinical trials in order for Health Canada to say, “This is how the drug should be used.”
It is currently in a regulatory Twilight Zone. My aim is to move it beyond that Twilight Zone. But it would be huge in piece in trying to fix this opioid crisis. It is definitely not for everybody. The way I started to use this medicine was to look for ways to help the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
It was a passion project that I started in 2001, and in 2009 Ibogaine came on the radar as a potential solution. The right synchronicities happened to have the right doors open. I was able to put together a great team for this.
Our philosophy was we will take paying customers and then use some profits take people from the Downtown Eastside and help them. We helped a good few people out of that neighborhood.
The people we’ve helped from that hood are doing great from what I know; I am in touch with a couple of them. One has a job and an apartment. He told me that he has $5,000 that he wants to invest in something [Laughing]. To go from being homeless on the Downtown Eastside, staying in a shelter; going through this process, getting on his feet enough that now he’s asking me about how to invest $5K in cryptocurrencies. It’s pretty amazing.  [Laughing].
Ibogaine is not for everybody. I work with people on the Downtown Eastside for months before I give them medicine. You do not want to pluck somebody out, give them Ibogaine, then drop them back in.  That will not work. But it can be a big piece of the puzzle in fixing this opioid crisis with the proper pre-care and aftercare. It deserves some attention. That’s my goal.
Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Interview with Alison McMahon – Founder & CEO, Cannabis at Work

Interview with Alison McMahon – Founder & CEO, Cannabis at Work

Image Credit: Business of Cannabis.

 

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You are going to be presenting at the Psychedelic Career Day on a panel. What will be your angle of presentation? What will you be bringing to the panel?
 
Alison McMahon: The panel is talking about how the various panelists got into their careers. In my case, it is focused on cannabis and cannabis legalization. I will be sharing my journey of how I got into this sector.
 
Jacobsen: With regards to the field of psychedelia, some of the conversations around Psychedelic Career Day is that the university system does not necessarily see the psychedelic field as a legitimate discipline or field of study. Why do you consider psychedelia a legitimate field of study?
 
McMahon: I will talk from the cannabis background, which crosses over and is relevant. To be frank, I am not an expert in the psychedelic field. I was asked to participate in the panel and I find it very interesting. I am happy to share my background as a much as possible.
 
When we look at cannabis, given the scheduling of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug in the US and a schedule 2 drug in Canada, it has lead to a lot of limitations in terms of studying cannabis for medical purposes. 
 
We are starting to see some movement and some change now. But what that means, is we are behind when it comes to the science of cannabis and being able to speak to its medical benefits and medical efficacy. 

With some of the psychedelic drugs, it is a similar situation; there have been li

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mitations on studying them for medical purposes. So, that limits the amount of knowledge that we have on the medical benefits or the medical potential and the amount of application that we have seen of those substances for medical or therapeutic reasons.

 
Jacobsen:  Taking on step away from the particular panel, as well as Psychedelic Carrer Day, though associated with it, you found Cannabis at Work. What inspired you to found it? In other words, where did you see a need that you could found an organization that could fulfill that need?
 
McMahon: I was a human resources specialist and an entrepreneur prior to this work. I was involved in human resources. I helped employers with a variety of human resources topics. In 2015, in the Summer, I started to see and hear more about cannabis in the news.
It started along with what was happening in the US at the state level. It was pre-Trudeau, but, he was running and marijuana was part of his platform. It was a time when cannabis started to hit my radar more.
I realized that it was, on the one hand, one big opportunity for drug reform. I realized that there is a really big challenge for employers, especially, in the sectors that have employees that may have been prescribed cannabis medically, but the employer is really uneducated about the complexities between strains with THC or CBD in them – and how that affects impairment or not.
I realized there was a gap in knowledge. That there was something they were grappling with. It was helping employers gain knowledge and also update their own drug and alcohol policies while maintaining workplace safety and being respectful of human rights for individuals who are using cannabis for medical purposes.
Due to our participation in the cannabis sector in Canada, around Cannabis at Work, in the Spring of last year with the legalization of marijuana announcement, that is when we launched our staffing division. That makes us Canada’s only staffing agency focusing exclusively on the regulated cannabis sector in Canada.
 
Jacobsen: Often, with psychedelics and non-psychedelics, there are myths in the public mind. You mentioned some. What are one or two of those bigger myths that float around? What are the empirical truths that dispel them?
 
McMahon: I think that the biggest myth or point of fear for employers is using medical cannabis is that the employee will be high all of the time and be a huge safety or productivity risk in the workplace. Employers and the general public do not understand some of the nuances of medical cannabis.
Somebody, if they are taking it in the evening and they do not work until 12 or more hours later the next day, they may not be impaired, but they may be able to continue doing their job. There may not need to be any formal accommodation of that.
I think that is probably the biggest challenge, which is the lack of nuance in knowledge about cannabis. Everyone views cannabis as an impairment causing substance. But people can be using these strains with very little THC in them.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Alison.

 

Scott Jacobsen

Scott Jacobsen

Member-at-large

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping (lifting, mowing, and raking) and gardening (digging, planting, and weeding). He founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He is a Tobis Fellow (2016) at the University of California, Irvine’s (UCI) Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center). He researches in the Learning Analytics Research Group, works as the Gordon Neighbourhood House Community Journalist/Blogger, researches and writes for the Marijuana Party of Canada, and is a contributor for The Voice Magazine. UCI Ethics Center awarded him with the distinction of Francisco Ayala Scholar (2014) for mentoring, presenting, researching, and writing. If you want to contact Scott, you may inquire or comment through e-mail: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.