Tessie Castillo

The real reason cocaine, heroin and marijuana are illegal has nothing to do with addiction

Looking out at the trail of devastation and death that the heroin epidemic has left in its wake, it’s hard to imagine that not long ago one could purchase the drug from a Sears catalogue.

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"Narcan Party" Hysteria Puts a Value on Drug Users' Lives

While the country is obsessing over the idea of “fake news,” let’s talk about some actual fake news: Narcan parties. Increasingly, media outlets are publishing stories with attention-grabbing headlines such as Narcan Parties Becoming Disturbing Trend, Police Say and People Intentionally OD to be Revived at ‘Narcan Parties.’ The stories usually involve grave reports that the increasing availability of Narcan (naloxone), a medicine that reverses opioid overdose, is causing people to overdose on purpose because they know that Narcan can be used to save them. The reports often originate from paramedics and law enforcement responding to overdose-related 911 calls, though most harm reductionists and drug users vehemently deny the existence of so-called Narcan parties. So who is telling the truth?

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Is Involuntary Drug Treatment Ethical or Even Effective?

The first time Deirdre Sampson (name changed) ever tried to have her younger sister, Kelly, involuntarily committed to drug treatment was after police found Kelly standing on an overpass threatening to jump. Kelly’s opioid use, once manageable enough to allow her to work as a veterinarian, had spiraled out of control. Kelly was threatening suicide, using drugs chaotically, and involved in violent, abusive relationships.

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Who Becomes a Drug Dealer?

It’s time to talk about people who sell drugs. While the national conversation is trending towards a more humane approach to people who use drugs, sellers are still portrayed as greedy criminals who “profit off the misery of others.” We hear stories of dealers peddling drugs to children, giving out free samples to hook new customers, or showing up at recovery meetings to tempt people to relapse. We even see many prosecutors charge drug dealers with murder when a customer overdoses on their product. Although there are many drug sellers who have committed deplorable acts to win customers or expand their markets, this is not the whole picture of most people who sell drugs.

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Inside the Life of Heroin User and Crusader for Harm Reduction for Addicts

The old "this is your brain on drugs!" sizzling egg TV ads have nothing on Mark Kinzly. He knows what a life looks like on drugs: jail, homelessness, street dealing, a chest of stab wounds and bullet scars, a family left behind. And yet the 54-year-old also credits drugs with saving his life.

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Should Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs Be Punished?

The issue of drug use is fraught with stigma and strong opinions, but no topic causes such lightning rod reactions as pregnant women who use drugs or have drug-exposed newborns. Last week, North Carolina joined a growing list of states that have introduced or passed bills criminalizing pregnant women who use drugs, even punishing them with jail time if they don’t seek treatment. But while the intention behind these laws may be to deter pregnant women from using drugs, they often have the opposite effect, driving a resource-poor population away from treatment and towards behaviors that can further harm mothers and babies.

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Cruel and Illegal: Police Are Stalking Methadone Clinics to Target and Harass Patients

Courtney’s life spiraled out of control when she became dependent on opiates. After years of struggling with addiction, the 31-year-old Texas native heard about methadone treatment, a therapy in which patients take daily doses of medicine to control cravings for illicit opiates. Courtney enrolled as a patient at a methadone clinic outside Austin. She began visiting the clinic daily for a dose of methadone, which helped eliminate her cravings, and slowly, began to pick up the other pieces of her life. That changed the day she became the victim of illegal profiling by police.

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How the Drug War Destroys Women's Lives

One glance at the mass of black and brown faces locked in prison on nonviolent drug charges and it’s clear that the so-called War on Drugs has deep roots in racism. But what about the drug war’s impact on gender? While not as widely discussed as racism, sexism infiltrates every aspect of drug policy, even within the reform movement itself, impacting how women who use drugs are viewed, treated and punished.

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Will 2015 Be the Year of Harm Reduction?

The past couple of years have been game-changers for harm reduction. The movement to reclaim the health and dignity of people who use drugs has celebrated the rapid passage of overdose prevention and syringe decriminalization laws, expanded access to the life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone, and welcomed endorsements from such prominent, previously skeptical agencies as the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control.

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Kindness, Not Punishment, Helps Drug Users Quit

Cat Nelson* took her first shot of heroin when she was 13 years old. By 17, she was using drugs regularly. By 20, she was in and out of rehab, trying to get clean. Today she is 28. She has legal problems. She has been homeless. She does sex work to support her habit. She has hepatitis C. And she still uses drugs.

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