11/11/20 Dr. Julian Buchanan

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Julian Buchanan

Julian Buchanan a New Zealand Doctor is author of dozens of essays outlining the horrendous failures of drug war policy + Name That Drug By It's Side Effects

Audio file

Dean Becker: (00:00)
Well today, we're going to reach halfway around the world for our interview. We're going to be speaking to a doctor in New Zealand. He's also, I think a CPA and a man of many credentials, a man who has written as best. I can tell dozens of essays, uh, in regards to drug policy and the way it impacts, uh, humanity. And, uh, he he's going to join us now. I want to welcome dr. Julian Buchanan. Hello doctor.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (00:30)
Hi there. Thanks for inviting me.

Dean Becker: (00:32)
Oh, thank you for joining us. I, um, I want to let the folks know that this man understands it. I feel that over the decades, I've been able to, I don't know, learn from and discern and absorb the thoughts of, uh, well over a thousand individuals, I've interviewed everyone from the drugs are a Portugal, two cops on the beat, the prisoners in the pen to, uh, all kinds of folks, but this gentleman gets it. He understands it. And I, I want to thank you first off for just being so astute and for sharing what you know, with the world on your website, which is Julian buchanan.wordpress.com. And I urge folks to go there. Um, how long have you been doing this, Julia?

Dr. Julian Buchanan (01:17)
Uh, since I was a probation officer, uh, back in the 1980s and the mid 1980s, I was a probation officer and, uh, I was in mercy side, uh, just part just North of Liverpool. And, uh, at that time there was a huge heroin problem. So only just emerge. So I have people on probation to me and, uh, they suddenly started developing heroin problems and, uh, at that point it was, we need to get these people in for free. Otherwise the drugs will kill them. And I embarked on that approach myself, uh, thinking that that was the helpful thing to do, but, uh, it took me about a year to realize I was actually messing people's lives up gravity because all I was doing is, uh, is taking people to rehab, pressurizing them, to become drug-free, uh, going to courts and telling the judge or the magistrates that they were promising to, to be clean and live a different life and not drive them up to these rehabs or drive them off to detox or within about two or three weeks, sometimes two or three days, that'd be back, back in the community on drugs again.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (02:24)
And, uh, I realized that they didn't, they were neither ready, able, or wanting to become drug free. And this whole notion of, of, uh, of trying to get people clean was deeply flawed as was a lot of the rhetoric around the dangers of drugs. You know, I've since realized that the drugs, uh, in pure clean form are not that dangerous. It's more of the lifestyle on the problems caused by prohibition. So it was really that revelation of messing people's lives. So back in the, uh, the, the mid late that moved me away from abstinence and recovery, uh, cause I realized I was part of that problem. And then I moved, started working with, uh, dr. John Marks and doing some research in the late eighties and, uh, promoting harm reduction. I actually managed to get the Merseyside probation service to adopt a policy of, of what I call risk reduction, which back in 1988 was quite radical than rarely to, to get them to knowledge. And we were, we were giving out clean needles and condoms and uh, issuing, uh, methadone and heroin on a maintenance basis and issuing oral and injectable, methadone and hundreds of people in the 1980s on Merseyside. So that's what it all began.

Dean Becker: (03:49)
Yes. No, thank you for that now. Um, it seems that history repeats itself quite often, as I understand it now, great Britain has many, uh, uh, constables or I guess they're called police there, uh, that are standing for much of what you were just talking about for providing heroin to addicts, to help them stabilize their life because it is the chasing of drugs. It is the chasing of money. It's the hiding from society. It is all of these factors that compound and, and complicate, uh, curing oneself from addiction or, or even easing up from a harder, uh, lifestyle, right.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (04:32)
That's right. That's right. Yeah. The, the police are on board and, uh, they have been on board in different different times. I mean, they were on board, you know, back in the 1980s, they understood that we had the police in mercy side, not arresting people for drugs. So we're giving people leaflets to go and get help to get clean needles and stuff. And, uh, so the case happened in both on the part in the past and, uh, yeah, you're right. We go full circle and, uh, Switzerland adopted the UK model of issuing clean heroin. They made it slightly stricter by supervising consumption, uh, which we didn't, but, uh, but Switzerland adopted the model that we have in, in, in mercy side. Uh, they adopted it in the, in the 1990s. And now we're talking about adopting the Swiss model, which was originally the, the British model anyway.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (05:26)
Uh, and the model that we adopted in the 1980s was actually called the British system, which was adopted in the 1950s anyway. Uh, but, but going back to addiction, just, just to say that, uh, the people who are chronically addicted, uh, and I use the term chronic, because I think we can all fall foul to losing control temporarily. And we regain that control most of us quite easily without professional help, but the people who are engaged in chronic addiction, you for work, where they struggle for years, decades. Most of those people from my research are people with long standing disadvantage, pain and suffering. So I know that some people call addiction and equal opportunities employer, but it isn't equal opportunities. The people who are most of the ravaged by addiction or those people who are social excluded, those people who have been abused, disadvantaged, uh, got learning difficulties and don't fit in a whole pile of, of struggles, often quite different struggles, but this a commonality, uh, of people who are not able to find a niche in society. And so when I talk back to the problems I saw in, in Brooklyn, the 1980s, nearly all of those young people were people who, whose, whose lost their jobs, who had no employment who had no futures. It was part of the Thatcher years of Britain. And so, so, so addiction doesn't cut right across the board. There will be people right across the board, of course, but predominantly it's, it's the people with, with serious multiple disadvantage

Dean Becker: (07:09)
And what, uh, so many, well, I don't, I was going to say fail to realize, but I think most politicians, most journalists, most, uh, most everybody, these days has a better understanding of the nature of addiction, of the nature, of the problem, of the problems of the drug war. For that matter, they understand that it's not working, that it has room to improve. And, and I, I think many politicians just need a go to, do they need prompted. They need maybe embarrassed, uh, to move in a new direction. Your thought there, Julia.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (07:49)
Yeah. Well, I think the problem is, is best understood in terms of the drug war in terms of institutionalized depression. And I think if you think about how, how have we managed to change people's minds in terms of the institutionalized depression and prejudice towards gay people, towards people, with learning disabilities towards women, uh, you know, towards people with mental health problems, towards black people, people of color, these institutionalized structures have been well and bedded in our psyche. And they go back to, you know, for decades and decades. And so we've managed to change most of those institutionalized structures. They used the term institutionalized, meaning that they are structurally embedded in the laws and policies of governments and agencies. Now they are less so today. So you'll struggle today to find governments or organizations that have laws and rules that prejudice black people or women or people with disabilities.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (08:57)
It's not legal. It's, it's, it's, it's, it's regarded as way unacceptable. So we've made progress in those areas. We still have struggles on the personal and cultural level with those institutional issues, uh, that they have historic significance to do with race, class and gender disability or whatever. But when it comes to drugs, we have made very little progress. So when it comes to drugs, institutionally, it was embedded back in the fifties and then the sixties, and then shrined in the single convention at the UN. But, but we still haven't unraveled that situation. So yes, people are politicians and people are waking up and realizing that something isn't like, there's somethings, something is a lie. And what's a lie is a complete disconnect between the evidence, the science of the rationale and where we're at. Yes. And that, that would be the same in relation to gender and racism and, and disability and homophobia.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (10:00)
There's a, that they were never rooted in science. They were never rooted in solid evidence. They were rooted in prejudice and propaganda and power. And so it's, so if you look at all those structures, it's about maintaining the power and privilege of usually the white male heterosexual. Uh, obviously there's also the able-bodied or whatever, but essentially it's about power and it's about othering. And that I think, I think drugs so-called drugs and drugs is a social construction. If this, you know, we're not talking about drugs, we're talking about what they've constructed as drugs. Sure. Because these people love to use drugs.

Dean Becker: (10:41)
Well, the, the world loves drugs, whether we want to realize it or not, they're, uh, they're pretty, uh, common, uh, the use in one fashion or another, I want to come, come back to the thought you were talking about there in its class. And in many ways it's, uh, um, you know, druggies, you know, they, uh, you can immediately cast them aside unworthy of life if they can't quit, you know, in many perspectives, I think that the human sir now, um, now we talked a couple of days ago, I was pretty frazzled. Uh, the COVID situation, I don't know when, what day it is when I'm sleeping, what the heck, nothing. And we had the election going on and, uh, many folks talk about Joe Biden was the author, or at least a ramrod of, uh, the mandatory minimum was in the, you know, going after people real hard back in the eighties and nineties, but he has now changed his perspective. He's talking about the appropriate thing now is no longer need to arrest drug users, but he wants to force them into treatment. And I feel that again is a step a little too far, but it be, it's a step in the right direction, but it's a forced, rarely works out. What's your thought there?

Dr. Julian Buchanan (11:57)
Uh, I'm appalled at the idea. Uh, I, I don't, uh, go along with, uh, incremental isms or steps in the right direction when they are still and trenched within a body of knowledge, which is, which is deeply flawed. So I think we've got to build the foundations, uh, on solid ground. You, you, you, you, you can't start, uh, dismantling racism. We're built on an assumption that the black people are inferior to white people. You know, you can't say, uh, Oh, we, we will dismantle the South African apartheid and we'll begin by allowing people of a certain whiteness to have a vote, you know, a step in the right direction. No, it isn't, it's, uh, it's on deeply flawed, uh, assumptions, which, which need to be exposed and challenge. So what I would say is that drug users do not need treatment. So people who use drugs.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (12:56)
So I'd say a number of things. Uh, first of all, I'd say that a drug is a psychoactive substance. And if we're talking about psychoactive substances, we're talking about caffeine and we've talked about alcohol and we're talking about tobacco. I'm probably talking about sugar as well. So they are psychoactive substances. So if we start saying people who use drugs need treatments, so all those people need treatment to use. Uh, I have to start the day with a, with a shot of caffeine. And of course they don't need treatments. We know that people who use drugs do not need treatments. We know that some people who've developed difficulties with drugs, with benefits or might want treatments. So, so, so first of all, we need to separate the, the notion of drugs. Secondly, we need to smash the idea that people who use drugs need treatments. Uh, and then thirdly, we need to start talking about treatments because treatment itself, you know, when, when people talk about the drug war, they imagine that our laws are wrong and they're quite right to think our laws are wrong, but, but probation, hasn't just damaged our laws.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (14:08)
It's damaged. What we think about as drugs, it's damaged our knowledge and our misunderstanding of drugs, but it's also infected our understanding of treatments. So, so treatments, particularly in the us, uh, treatments is often perceived to be abstinence. And it's riddled with ideas of being clean and riddled with ideas of recovery, being free of a whole list of substances. If I had a problem with, uh, with alcohol, there's no reason I should give up coffee, none at all. It doesn't make sense that you you'd laugh at me. If I said, I've got a grid problem, and everyone says, I should give up coffee, but, but when it comes to illegal croaks, if I've got a cocaine problem, people would say in the rehab, you've also got to give up cannabis on what basis does. So the whole, the whole, the whole evidence-based treatment is also flawed within prohibition.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (15:05)
It's seen and interpreted through a prohibitionist lens. So, so yes, people do, you know, I'm pleased that people who have drug problems can get help and that's great, but, but mandatory treatments as well as another problem. And it, it, that doesn't work. It's pandering to prohibitionist propaganda and, and fear mongering. It's, it's trying to dress up some sort of a step in the right direction as you call it, uh, in order to appease the hard line. And really this, if we, you know, we would not, we would not try to tackle racism by trying to appease the Klu Klux Klan. You don't, you don't, you don't, that's, that's not the way to do things. We need to speak truth to power, and we need to start to having an open discussion about what the issues really are.

Dean Becker: (15:58)
Well, first, once again, we're speaking with dr. Julian Buchanan, he's, uh, uh, based in New Zealand, uh, he's an expert on drug policy. I, I, my hat is off to him. You were mentioned of incrementalism brings to mind. I often use the phrase. Instrumentalism is a killer because the longer we embrace these slow steps towards sanity, there's going to be more overdose deaths, more shootouts, more problems than, than necessarily I have an alarm going off. I'm going to go shut it off. I'll be back in one minute. Okay.

Speaker 3: (16:28)
Okay. Okay. Yes. I got too much light coming in here.

Dean Becker: (17:13)
Okay. That's better. All right. And that was it.

Speaker 3: (17:19)
Um, well,

Dean Becker: (17:21)
Dr. Buchanan, as I mentioned, uh, early on, uh, you have written dozens of essays out there on your website, Julian buchanan.wordpress.com. And the hot ticket right now is you have listed 72, uh, failings. So the drug war, I guess, is the best way to put it, uh, myths as, as you described them. Uh, the first one, there was a clear pharmacological definition for drugs. And I think we already addressed that one a bit, but, uh, it includes everything up to maybe even sugar. Um, now secondarily myth, number two, people who use drugs are suffering from substance use disorder. Let's talk about that one a bit.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (18:04)
Yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah. Just to mention on the, on the first one around drugs is that, is that we collude and we shouldn't as reform collude with a notion of drugs as constructed by prohibitionists. We need to make sure that why does society understands that when we talk about drugs, we are also talking about the things that the people like Biden and everybody else are using, which are legal, which are, which are justice as just as addictive. And, and if, if anything more addictive and more dangerous or more hot, I wouldn't use the word dangerous. I'd say harmful than some of the drugs that are illegal. So it's, it's just to try to break down this dominant discourse from prohibitionists, which are fortunately reformers adopted, and they don't challenge, uh, the idea of, uh, of a substance use. People who use drugs have got substance use disorders.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (18:58)
That in one sense, we mentioned that earlier as well, because people who use drugs don't have substance use disorders, but again, w w w we conflate, we conflate addiction with use, and that's another prohibitionist discourse. So, so in the same way, as I mentioned before, around, you know, race and disability, um, and, uh, and homophobia, we need, we need to reclaim and regain the discourse as reformers and not allow it to be riddled with, with, uh, with conflicted ideas and misunderstandings. So, so that talking about a substance use disorder, but it's not use its use is fine. It's people who are struggling with disorders. So the danger is, is that they'll end up pushing people into treatments who, who, because they use drugs because essentially a prohibitionist perspective of illegal drug abuse. Is there anybody who uses illegal tropes has got a current problem, and actually only about five to 10% of people will ever have a drug problem at any point in time.

Dean Becker: (20:09)
Now, I like to, uh, in this type of discussion about, you know, drug use, uh, um, people, people suffering. And I guess what I like to say is that probably somewhere in the high 90 percentile, uh, users of drugs are not having any, they're having fun, basically they're, they're enjoying their life. Or if they're heroin users, they're normalizing their situation, bringing themselves to, um, out of there, I don't do heroin, but I think it's like a depression or a bit of misery. And the heroin brings you back to somewhat of normalcy. Um, but it's, it's not like they're suffering, uh, or necessarily

Dr. Julian Buchanan (20:49)
Yeah. And it's, and it's not like it's science. Uh, we only need to refer people to their use of caffeine or the use of alcohol and say, what percentage of people develop issues with caffeine or alcohol? And it would be a similar percentage. So there'll be people that, you know, and I know who can't have a, can't have a caffeine at night, or they give up caffeine altogether because they suffer with migraines or headaches, or they get too giddy or whatever. But it's only about 5% of people. It's not, it's not most people, same with alcohol. You know, you, you meet people who suffer alcohol problems, but the vast majority of people I know, and friends, I've got to use alcohol 90% of them or more don't have alcohol problems. Right. And it's not particularly different from illegal drugs. Right. But so I wouldn't make a distinction and say that people who use illegal drugs do have more hurdles to negotiate because they don't know that the quality of what they're using, they, they, they don't know whether it's been mixed with poisons and if they need help, they can't ask for help or they'd be more reluctant to us for help because it's illegal.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (22:01)
And when they use or have to use in secrets, uh, for fear of stigma and hostility. So all those additional barriers and hurdles do cause problems to people and they are, they are one of the causes of why people overdose. And one people struggled with addictions before seeking calc, but then our products of the drugs they're products of prohibition. Yes.

Dean Becker: (22:25)
Well, I, uh, last week I had on, um, uh, several law enforcement officers, uh, Canada, um, a couple of them up there, we're talking about their use of, um, safe injection facilities, uh, where, um, users come, can come in and, and, uh, use their contaminated or potentially deadly drugs. You were just talking about under medical supervision. So in case they overdose, they can be, uh, brought back using Naloxone. And they talked about how there's one of these facilities directly across from the Vancouver, Maine police headquarters. And they talked about how, uh, it has been in use since the beginning of the pandemic. It became more necessary. They thought, and that they have not had one problem with that facility, that it is saving lives. It is, it is, uh, uh, providing a great public service. And, and I want to backtrack just a bit. I live in Texas.

Dean Becker: (23:24)
We had, I think it's been 10 years ago now, a law that was passed to say, okay, you can do a, a needle exchange in one County and see how it pans out. But then the mayor of the city in that County, he said, not in my backyard, so to speak. Yeah. So it has not happened here. So we have clandestine a few clandestine needle exchanges going on in the major cities here, but it has proven itself. And Greg Britain, it has proven itself in Canada. I'm sure it's proven itself in New Zealand as well. Um, and, and I guess what I'm trying to get to here, sir, is that we have to look forward. We, we, we got to quit clinging to the past, to the hysteria and the propaganda, and look at modern science and save some lives. So your thought there, please.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (24:12)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, the real thoughts, really, uh, this needle exchanges, which we haven't used Zealand, which we were the first country to roll them out in the eighties nationally, we rolled them out. So we have needle exchanges right across the country, and we've had them for over 30 years now, but we haven't got any drug consumption rooms, which is what you're describing in Vancouver. And there's a fruit consumption room is Sydney as well. And they are remarkably successful. I mean it, and it's a great example of that. People talk about drugs being dangerous, but here we have people coming off the streets with street gear, which is not regulated, which is not pure, which, which has gotten, we've got no idea what really is the content of these drugs. And people are going into these facilities and they've been doing it for, for ages and ages, thousands and thousands of injections, injections have taken place.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (25:13)
And, uh, people have injected these folks and not one person has died in the truck consumption room worldwide. So, so if drugs are so dangerous, how come in these drug consumption rooms across the world with hundreds of thousands of injections that have taken place, not one single person has died, which is why I say we've got a global drug problem. We haven't got, we've got a global drug policy problem, not a global grid problem because it clearly our policies that are killing people because with the right policies, people are not dying not to go back to your other parts of that question, which is that, you know, we, we, you were saying in Texas, you had needle exchange and closed them down and made them more difficult. And here we are all are still struggling to roll out needle exchanges. And I think the problem is, is that we've got, we don't need more research.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (26:12)
We don't need more evidence because it's, you know, we, we can't tackle homophobia or racism with more research and evidence. That's not the problem. It's, uh, it's about ideology. It's, it's, it's about power. It's about propaganda. And until we, until we understand the monster that we're, we're fighting with, we won't tackle the monster and defeated. And the monster we're fighting with, isn't a monster who simply can't quite fathom what the problem is. And, and we need to give them more evidence. We've been given a wheelbarrow loads of evidence for decades, you know, uh, you know, so the race problem, isn't a problem of ignorance. It's a problem of power. It's a problem of prejudice. Uh, it's a problem of propaganda and, and people don't want to release that power. They want to keep hold of the status quo. So we've got to find ways of exposing and challenging.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (27:15)
So the, the, the wider society need to be helped. So, because we need, we need support from grassroots. The people have got power. I'm not going to release the power, but we need to win the grassroots support amongst the people who are sitting on the fence amongst the people who are not enlightened. Because I think, you know, people, you know, people, people are brought up and encouraged, you know, to be sexist or racist. It's part of the institutional environments that we grow up and live in, but people don't necessarily choose to be that way. We're indoctrinated. We're socialized to be that way. And I would say we've been socialized to demonize illegal croaks. So we have got to find ways of unlocking that that's process that operates in wider society. So for me, I don't think the solution lies. We're going to the UN and going to the UN ODC and the solution doesn't lie with having top meetings with Barb Biden or whoever the real solution lies in the grassroots.

Dr. Julian Buchanan (28:24)
And that's why I've, I've published about 30, 40 book chapters articles in academic journals and whatever. But, but again, that they exist in a vacuum and people can't afford to buy the journals. People don't access the books because they're academic books or whatever. That's why I started the websites about 10 years ago to try to disseminate information at a grassroots level. So it was available to all. And because that's where change will come change will come from the top down because the top down they've got vested interest in power