As a former police officer in Jersey, and, for several years, a member of the Drugs Squad, I was employed to assist in the detection of crime related to the use, dealing and financing of the illegal drugs trade.
At the beginning of the nineties there were a number of drugs already in use or finding their way onto the streets of our small but affluent island. These included Cannabis resin; Herbal Cannabis (and to a lesser extent, cannabis oil); LSD (Lysergic acid diethyl-amide), an hallucinogenic drug mainly found in paper form (absorbent paper that had been dipped in the drug), decorated with enticing and often amusing pictures and logos (one popular range had a caricature of Saddam Hussein at the time of Operation Desert Storm, the first Gulf War); Speed (amphetamine); Magic Mushrooms (psilocybin – hallucinogenic) and Ecstasy (MDMA – methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine), the ever popular dance craze (rave) drug. On a smaller scale there were regular seizures of cocaine and heroin.
Then, as now, the street user was entering a lottery whenever they went to purchase from the dealers, especially in respect of Ecstasy, LSD, Cocaine and Heroin. Manufacturers of the illegal drugs would always ‘cut’ the drugs (mix with the pure element of the drug) in an effort to make the actual drug stretch further and thus increasing their profits and those of their backers and importers. This left the user to play Russian roulette with their lives as they were unable to guarantee the strength of the drug that they were taking (more of that later).
Drugs, however, were not a new thing in the nineties; in fact they have been used for millennia, originally legally and more recently, with certain drugs (since the turn of the 20th century), illegally.
THE DIM AND DISTANT PAST – A POTTED HISTORY
Psilocybin, or ‘magic mushrooms’ were believed to have been found depicted on murals from the African continent, dating from 9,000BC.
Theophastus (371-287BC), the Greek scholar, wrote about the use of opium poppy juice as did the founding fathers of medicine, Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides, who claimed that opium (from where you get, among other things, heroin) was in use over 10,000 years ago and opium products were believed to have been modified and refined by the Sumarians in 3,400BC.
In 315AD, in Israel, remains of a pregnant teenage girl were discovered. The body and the ash from it were found to contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that creates the ‘high’ in Cannabis and likely to have been given to her as a means of pain relief.
In Athens, Greece, the ‘birthplace of democracy’, liberty was valued above all else. Denying the freedom to pursue happiness via the ingestion of drugs would have been unthinkable. Opium was common in classical times and was literally called ‘the juice’. Usage and addiction to opium had no moral stigma.
Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, brought to life in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Gladiator’, was an opium addict. Greeks and Romans knew how to get high via countless plants, eg. ivy, daffoldils, mandrake and mushrooms.
(left) a likeness, as a bust, of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius
Despite the dangers of overdose, people from all walks of life used psychoactive drugs. They induced dreams, visions and hallucinations and were seen as an avenue to self knowledge, discovery and creativity. These drugs may have enabled them to envision such radical, revolutionary concepts as democracy. The Greeks favourite method of ingesting drugs was by mixing them with wine.
Source: From ‘You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos’ by Robert Arthur (www.blog.subarra.com) – 16 November, 2009
Often, the above facts have been intentionally ignored and covered up by historians. Recreational drugs have been translated out of classical literature in the same manner as bawdy sexual references were until recent decades.
Sorcerers, witches and magicians’ powers mostly came from their expertise in drugs. They were the ‘classical’ drug dealers of their day. The effects of the drugs were seen as magical and not ‘of this world’.
Ancient Greek Olympic Athletes took psychedelic mushrooms to give them a competitive edge in a manner that would have given Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, countless sleepless nights.
START OF THE WAR ON DRUGS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC (USA & GB)
United States of America
Sources: The following extracts and information were taken from the book, ‘Chasing the Scream’ by Johann Hari (Bloomsbury Books) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (available on Amazon)
The ‘war on drugs’ was a phrase coined in the 1930’s and came straight after ‘Prohibition’, the ‘war on alcohol’.
As a twelve year old boy in 1904, Harry Anslinger, believed that there were people who looked and sounded normal but could, at any time, become unhinged if introduced to drugs. Seeing his neighbour’s wife in pain and using the drugs that he had been asked to fetch from the dispensary by the husband, Harry had unwittingly entered his personal ‘war on drugs’. During this time, opiates were commonly used and legal in any American pharmacy including the ingredients for heroin and cocaine. Cough medicine and even the original ingredients for Coca-Cola were made from the coca plant and heroin tins were even sold to members of high society in department stores. (below) Harry Anslinger
To sate American society’s fear of countrywide anxiety, it looked for something real that it could destroy and it settled on drugs. In 1914, the resolve was to rid the country of all drugs.
As an adult, Harry Anslinger rose through federal officer ranks to become head of the then, newly formed, Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), based at the Treasury Department in Washington D.C. Anslinger and his squad had been in the thick of policing Prohibition and when that finished and the US had lost that fourteen year battle, he needed a new direction. The emphasis of the squad was now directed at Drug Prohibition. At the time however, many drugs were still legal eg. marijuana. Harry pledged to eradicate all drugs and in the next thirty years, turned the FBN into the global headquarters for a ‘war on drugs’, which is still being waged throughout the world today.
The early years for Anslinger and his team were aimed at dealing with rooting out opiate users, but that brought limited success, so he turned his attention to marijuana.
The Harrison Act of 1914 sought to ban heroin and cocaine but did allow a loophole; that Doctors could legally prescribe those drugs to addicts.
Many Doctors tried to prove to Anslinger that he was wrong about marijuana and that it had medical properties. However, evidence that ran contrary to Anslinger’s beliefs were disregarded. The spotlight was also pointed firmly at the Jazz scene, where marijuana was a regular bed-fellow among musicians, mainly black, and the people that followed the music.
The main reason for the United States authorities banning drugs was because, in their opinion, “blacks, Mexicans and Chinese were using these chemicals and forgetting ‘their place’ and ‘menacing’ white people.”
Below is an extract explaining the idea behind the Harrison Act, taken from the website http://www.historyplex.com.
“Passed by Congress in 1914, the Harrison Act, also known as the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, was the first instance to apply criminal laws to the non-medical use of drugs. Its primary purpose was not only to tax and regulate the sale and distribution of drugs, but also their import and production. Under the Act, any person who was related to the production, import, and distribution of opiates and coca products within the United States was liable to be taxed, and had to register themselves with the IRS. It was intended that the records of such transactions would make it easy for the government to monitor the movement of drugs across the country, and confine the use of such substances only to medical uses. It was stated that anyone breaking the law could face fines up to USD 2,000, and an imprisonment of up to 5 years.”
The applicability of the Harrison Act in prosecuting doctors for prescribing narcotics to addicts was challenged successfully in 1925, in which Justice McReynolds stated that the state has no power to regulate the practice of medicine.
Once the drugs trade had effectively been criminalised, it was blatantly obvious that criminals were going to step in; people such as Arnold Rothstein, who was a Jewish-American racketeer,businessman and gambler and who became Head of the Jewish mob in New York City, controlled the entire heroin and cocaine trade across the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. As the FBN were harassing and prosecuting Doctors, prescribing legally to addicts, drug distribution was passing from Doctors to criminal like Rothstein. A quote by Johann Hari in the book, ‘Chasing the Scream’ noted that,
“It wasn’t by the Law of nature; it was by political decree” when describing the passing of the drug distribution baton from legal to illegal sources.
(left) Arnold Rothstein
The following extract is taken from the Wikipedia page entitled, “Drug Policy of the United Kingdom.”
“Until 1916 drug use was hardly controlled, and widely available opium and coca preparations commonplace.
Between 1916 and 1928 concerns about the use of these drugs by troops on leave from the First World War and then by people associated with the London underworld gave rise to some controls being implemented. The distribution and use of morphine and cocaine, and later cannabis, were criminalised, but these drugs were available to addicts through doctors; this arrangement became known as the “British system” and was confirmed by the report of the Departmental Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction (Rolleston Committee) in 1926. The Rolleston Report was followed by “a period of nearly forty years of tranquillity in Britain, known as the Rolleston Era. During this period the medical profession regulated the distribution of licit opioid supplies and the provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Acts of 1920 and 1923 controlled illicit supplies. The medical treatment of dependent drug users was separated from the punishment of unregulated use and supply. This policy on drugs was maintained in Britain, and nowhere else, until the 1960s. Under this policy drug use remained low; there was relatively little recreational use and few dependent users, who were prescribed drugs by their doctors as part of their treatment.
It has been argued that the main legal innovations between 1925 and 1964 were in response to international pressures, not domestic problems.
In the 1960s a few doctors prescribed large amounts of heroin, some of which was diverted into the illegal market. Also substances such as cannabis, amphetamines and LSD started to become significant in the UK.
In 1961 the international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was introduced. To control global drug trading and use, it banned countries from treating addicts by prescribing illegal substances, allowing only scientific and medical uses of drugs. It was not itself binding on countries, which had to pass their own legislation.
Following pressure from the US, the UK implemented the Drugs (Regulation of Misuse) Act in 1964. Although the Convention dealt with the problems of drug production and trafficking, rather than the punishment of drug users, the 1964 Act introduced criminal penalties for possession by individuals of small amounts of drugs, as well as possession with intent to traffic or deal in drugs. The police were soon given the power to stop and search people for illegal drugs.
In 1971 the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) was passed, continuing measures in previous legislation, and classifying drugs into classes A (the most highly regulated), B, and C. Penalties for trafficking and supply were increased in the 1980s.
In 1991 a new phase of UK drug legislation started with an attempt to integrate health and criminal justice responses via Schedule 1A6 Probation Orders. This reduced the separation between medical and punitive responses that had characterised the British system in the past.”
MODERN DAY DRUG USE IN JERSEY
It has been twenty-five years since I was medically retired from the Police Force and one year ago, I found myself back in the thick of drug users and dealers as I embarked on a career in the security industry, as a door security supervisor, working in pubs, clubs and at festivals.
I have found that the likes of Heroin and Cocaine are now used by a much wider demographic. Ecstasy has continued to evolve and, while the price of drugs has reduced, the dangers have seemingly increased as manufacturers and dealers look for ever more alarming ways to make a drug go further. The agents that are used to cut the pure drugs are becoming as dangerous as the pure drug itself.
For example, a popular cutting agent for Cocaine is Benzocaine, a pharmaceutical drug used in dental anaesthetic and throat sprays. It is often used to mask the fact that the ‘cocaine’ sometimes contains little or no actual cocaine. Benzocaine numbs the area, such as when rubbing the drug back and forth over one’s gums, to simulate the effect when done with actual cocaine. Some cocaine is also cut with Levamisole and in 2014, a Government Minister in England claimed that up to 4/5th’s of cocaine in the United Kingdom was cut with what is, in effect, veterinary medicine used to de-worm livestock such as horses and cows. Lidocaine is another cutting agent used because of its numbing qualities.
Benzocaine and Lidocaine can be purchased for as little as £10 per kilo with the resale value of up to £50,000 when cocaine is cut with them.
The strength of Ecstasy tablets can vary greatly. There are lots of strong drugs as well as many fakes out there; everything from high levels of purity down to placebos (none or insignificant amounts of the drug).
Source: Quotes taken from VICEonline – Author: Mike Segalov – http://www.vice.com – 16/09/2015
(Ecstasy tablets come in many shapes, sizes and colours as well as in any strength)
There is one certainty that cannot be disputed –
You will never be able to prevent drugs from getting into pubs, clubs and festivals as security staff are extremely limited as to how far they can search an individual. While police officers can detain a person for search under the Misuse of Drugs (Jersey) Law and arrest them if found to be in possession for personal use, or in possession with intent to supply (dealer), a registered door security supervisor can only search with the permission of the punter. Obviously if they refuse to be search they are unlikely to gain entry however, if searched, all one can do is search the outer clothing and pockets along with the hair, hands, shoes, and whatever they are carrying eg a bag, handbag, rucksack etc. Pat downs are fine but one must take great care not to touch vulnerable areas like the groin or buttocks. A favourite place to hide drugs, with a view to gaining entry, will be the underwear, as they know we cannot search there. or by stuffing*, plugging* or swallowing* the drugs.
*stuffing relates to females inserting drugs into their vagina; plugging is when drugs are inserted into the anal cavity. Swallowing is self explanatory ie. when small packages of a drug are swallowed and then retrieved when the swallower goes to the toilet. Drugs are normally packed into pellets/bullets made out of condoms or similar.
The following stories come from the website http://www.inthemix-junkie.com, in an article written by Jules Lefevre on 26.09.2017
These are some of the dumbest ways that people have tried to bring drugs into festivals.
- While conducting drug operations at Melbourne’s (Australia) Listen Out Festival in September 2017, Police busted a punter who had allegedly covered his ecstasy tablets in vegemite and cling wrapped them around his penis. He was trying to avoid detection by sniffer dogs but to no avail. Cling wrapping them to your member is increasingly popular, as the user/dealer knows that security staff do not have the right to forage in their underwear.
- There was a guy who wrote his name and telephone number on his little baggies (small clip top clear bag used for holding drugs) in case someone found it. Doh!
- There was the man who had every detail of his drug deals written in his phone. When the unfortunate guy’s phone was checked, it was revealed he was in the process of setting up another deal while describing the state of the drugs.
- Two men were arrested two weeks prior to a festival in Sydney, for allegedly trying to hide drugs on the festival grounds in Olympic Park. They attempted to drill holes in the building so that they could stash them, then collect them when the festival was open.
- There was a girl who put coffee and pepper up her vagina. She secreted thirty-seven ecstasy tablets, in a ziplock bag, cling wrapped them and, between each layer, she sprinkled copious amounts of coffee grounds and pepper. She then inserted them. However, all her efforts were in vain as the sniffer dogs still located her stash.
DRUGS AND THEIR EFFECTS
This section will list the drugs available on the open market and the likely symptoms one may experience after taking it/them. It is not an exhaustive list as there are many more illegal drugs out there:
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning can be confusion, vomiting, breathing difficulties, irregular or slow heart rate, clammy pale skin, lack of consciousness and a low body temperature.
ECSTASY / XTC / MDMA / MOLLY
A high or extra strong dose can cause high temperature, high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, unconsciousness and seizures.
CANNABIS / POT / WEED / HERBAL / SKUNK
High doses or use of Skunk (particularly strong version of cannabis) can cause psychological and mental issues. Problematic people already suffering mental issues. Symptoms of overdose can be panic, extreme anxiety, paranoia, acute psychosis or hallucinations.
COCAINE / CRACK / ICE
Cocaine or Crack Cocaine overdose symptoms are directly related to the drug’s effects on the cardio-vascular system, irregular heart rythym, heart attack, stroke or seizure.
OPIOIDS / HEROIN
An overdose on an opioid drug can be fatal because it can dramatically slow breathing; combining opioids with other drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazapines can put you at an even higher risk of fatal overdose. Look for slowed or stopped breathing, unconsciousness and pinpoint pupils.
LSD / ACID
An overdose of LSD is very rare but a user can still have a bad experience, called a ‘bad trip’. Sometimes a user may end up harming themselves or others. LSD may also trigger mental illness in people that have that predisposition. Symptoms include: sense of extreme panic, feeling detached from one’s body or thoughts, anxiety or combativeness.
MAGIC MUSHROOMS / PSILOCYBIN
Adverse effects from a high dose can cause anxiety, nausea, abnormally high heart rate, high blood pressure, extreme weakness or vertigo as well as a bad trip, similar to LSD.
NEW PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES (NPS) / formerly known as LEGAL HIGHS
Users often have a lack of knowledge of the composition of these substances as there are countless variations of the same branded drug. Many NPS are sold as LSD. The signs and symptoms include agitation, delirium, aggression, paranoia, violence, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, extremely high body temperature.
NOTE: Some festival goers unknowingly take ‘bath salts’, believing that they are taking MDMA (Ecstasy). Bath Salts are synthetic designer drugs that can be more harmful than MDMA (Methylene-Dioxy-Methamphetamine). The symptoms of Bath Salt overdose can be abnormal heart rate, heart palpitations, muscle spasms/tension, kidney failure, agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, severe sweating. Recent NPS include Mephadrone, Methylone and Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (bath salts), synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and synthetic hallucinogens such as 251-NBOMe or N-bomb, Salvia, Nitrous Oxide, M-cat, Meow Meow.
Former legal highs (NPS) were made illegal in Jersey on 21st December 2009. They were only made illegal in the United Kingdom on 26th May 2016 under the new Psychoactive Substances Act.
PHENTANYL / DUROGESIC
This drug is a very strong pain relief substance that usually comes in patch form and is used to reduce chronic pain. Users/Addicts find ways to extract the drug from the patch, often with fatal consequences.
On 1st March 2007, a news release was published by Jersey’s Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Susan Turnbull. `it was a public health alert issued to Jersey Doctors and Pharmacists following the death of up to five people who were believed to have misused the painkilling medicine. Most of the Jersey deaths appear to have been associated with injecting a phentanyl solution using vinegar to extract the active drug from the patches. As well as being potentially lethal, injecting extracted phentanyl can cause abscesses and thrombosis.
HOW DO WE WIN THE WAR ON DRUGS?
Governments and Law Enforcement organisations have been fighting the war on drugs, all over the world, since the beginning of the 20th Century.
Are we close to winning it ?
In my humble opinion; NO, not even close.
In many cases, drugs financiers and top level dealers do not take drugs themselves. They are in it for the riches that the sale of drugs will bring them. They are all preying on the ‘needs’ of the user and addict and the street level dealers that sell to fund their own habit.
What if there was another way to tackle this ‘WAR’?
At this juncture, I would like to recommend that people read a book which explains the drugs culture in the UK, the policing of it and how one person’s views were turned on their head after working as an undercover drugs officer for fourteen years. I found this book extremely insightful and had the pleasure to speak to its author Neil Woods (co-written with JS Rafaeli).
Neil Woods is not alone in his views on the so called ‘war on drugs’. He is joined by other former and current police officers, medical professionals, prison officers, military personnel and intelligence service operatives among many groups; some of these people are or were high ranking.
Neil is the current Chairman of LEAP UK; LEAP standing for LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTION PARTNERSHIP. On their website www.ukleap.org the Introduction in their press pack states that:
“LEAP UK (Law Enforcement Action Partnership) is the British Branch of the 501(c)3 non-profit, international educational organisation, comprising former and current police officers, members of the intelligence services, military and a range of figures from the criminal justice system who have joined together with civilians to raise awareness to the failed, dangerous and expensive pursuit of a punitive drugs policy.
Our mission is to reduce the multitude of unintended, harmful consequences resulting from fighting the ‘War on Drugs’ and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition. We advocate reform and an evidence based policy with a public health focus, including decriminalisation and nuanced regulatory models for all drugs.”
VOLUNTARY DRUG TESTING – MUSIC FESTIVALS
In 2017 after a trial period the year before, an organisation called THE LOOP, “which provides drug safety testing, welfare and harm reduction services at nightclubs, festivals and other leisure events” were going live on at least six major music festivals offering that “festival-goers will be able to take their drugs to a testing tent run by The Loop, an organisation which usually conducts forensic testing of drugs seized by police. They’ll then tell them what’s in the drugs before destroying whatever was handed over.” (source: www.wearetheloop.org)
The user is told, when they return after handing over a small sample of their stash, what the strength is (if any) and what’s in it. After that, the ‘user’ will be given a short supportive, non judgemental talk with a drugs counsellor and then they will be fully equipped to make an informed choice as to whether they take those ‘drugs’ or dispose of them.
Ultimately we are all responsible for what we put into our bodies, but having all the available information out there for people to digest, gives a much more informed view and allows individuals to make personal choices.
Websites of Interest
GOOD COP, BAD WAR by Neil Woods and JS Rafaeli
DRUG WARS by Neil Woods and JS Rafaeli (JUST RELEASED)
CHASING THE SCREAM by Johann Hari