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The Junkie Old Folks' Home
April 10, 2012 3:46 PM   Subscribe

"Woodstock is their last refuge, the only old-age home in the world where hard drugs are not a taboo, a place intended for people who, in their early 50s, look as worn out as if they were in their 70s." A model project keeps aging drug users out of the streets of The Hague.

Video by Radio Netherlands Worldwide

The 2010 analysis by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction according to which "meeting the needs of older drug users is a growing issue for treatment services". Example quote:
In the United Kingdom (England), it was estimated that in 2006 there were 332 090 individuals using opioids (mostly heroin) or crack cocaine, of whom 122 323 (about 27 %) were between 35 and 64 years old. Furthermore, the prevalence of problem drug users in England increased for older drug users (35–64) between 2004/05 and 2007/08 from 5.77 per thousand population to 6.36 per thousand. In Austria, age-stratified analyses based on prevalence estimates show that the proportion of problem drug users aged above 35 increased between 2001 and 2007 from 28 % to 33 %. In Ireland and Greece, the 35–64 age group
represent, respectively, about a third and a quarter of all problem drug users.


Previously on Metafilter: Wet Houses
posted by Omnomnom (73 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good ol' progressive Holland. They're pretty smart over there.

Unfortunate that they call it Woodstock, though. Very sad.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just wait until the Baby Boomers start graduating into retirement, on fixed incomes. This year is the first year that Baby Boomers retire; there are 76 million of us, with the next 18 years providing the rest of the retirement population from that era.

Add to that the increasing lack of sufficiency of social services, and we have a massive, looming problem for aging drug users, and well as all other aging populations in need.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:06 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If they are in their early 50s, it would mean they would be around 10 at the time of Woodstock.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:12 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


They don't get everything right, but damn the Netherlands make the US look like a pretty peculiar place.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:15 PM on April 10, 2012


If they are in their early 50s, it would mean they would be around 10 at the time of Woodstock.

What, you mean you were older than 10 when you did your first hit of smack? Man, I used to kick back with a packet of brown and nod out during the Spiderman cartoons on Saturday mornings. Good times, good times.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:27 PM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


damn the Netherlands make the US look like a pretty peculiar place.

How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:31 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


and we have a massive, looming problem for aging drug users, and well as all other aging populations in need.

Drug users generally don't live past their early 60s, if that, so that's one population that won't be too much of a problem.
posted by Melismata at 4:32 PM on April 10, 2012


How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure.

Methadone treatment is a polite euphemism for using a different drug than usual.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:34 PM on April 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars.

Absolutely. That'd be taking crucial money out of the military-industrial complex that's keeping us FREE!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2012 [48 favorites]


Ideefixe: "How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks."

Conversely, I am in full support of such things. It makes for a happier society where the people who can't quit stay indoors and safe. We disagree.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2012 [58 favorites]


> How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.

I agree with you on moral principle, but what usually drives harm reduction measures such as this is simple data that says this is cheaper and less problematic to the tax base than keeping them homeless criminals. This is a small set of the addict population and harm reduction "wet house" type programs like this typically do not increase their numbers simply because the facilities are open.

It was kind of a hard pill for me to swallow as well: letting data and harm reduction inform decisions rather than my ingrained morality that gets irate at this sort of thing.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:39 PM on April 10, 2012 [41 favorites]


Ideefixe: "How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks."

Conversely, I am in full support of such things. It makes for a happier society where the people who can't quit stay indoors and safe. We disagree.


Like a lot of people, I'm torn here. Anyone who knows anything about addiction realizes that if quitting were easy there'd be no addicts. On the other hand, I am not oblivious to the damage drug addicts can wreak on their families and communities. This seems like an attempt to minimize the latter. Will it work? Who the hell knows, but worth a try.
posted by jonmc at 4:42 PM on April 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars.

It's actually cheaper to support heroin users than try to treat them.
posted by griphus at 4:42 PM on April 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Whoops, forgot the relevant quote:
"When they are in treatment it doesn't matter which medication they are getting," he said. "[Those on maintenance] were committing very little crime and there was very little cost to the justice system from incarceration."

"What matters is that those who are on methadone relapse [more often] and the costs associated with the relapsed state are higher," said Anis.
posted by griphus at 4:44 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.


So they can shoot up indoors and out of sight of my children? At minimum I'll consider it.

But that's Holland for you.

For 1000 years, the Dutch have been confronted with having to pick from 3 stark alternatives:

1. work together to keep the pumps running and the dykes intact, or worse, 2. grow gills, or worse still, 3. learn German.

So for 1000 years, they've internalized the need to think of the common good before anything else.
They put this program in place because they decided it best serves the common good. And they might be right.
posted by ocschwar at 4:48 PM on April 10, 2012 [23 favorites]


As an addendum to my earlier comment, at my store at lot the street people who try to sell us books are addicts. I've watched them scratch at their needle marks, nod out and shit themselves and fire up their dope in our restroom which is next to the kids department. I understand the revulsion and frustration people have. I'm just saying that maybe this might just help everybody.
posted by jonmc at 4:50 PM on April 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wish my city was named with a definite article...
posted by indubitable at 4:51 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


3. learn German.
Nitpick: they already know German. Spain and France were the usual actual or potential overlords.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:51 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Wethouses" previously.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:51 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.

Even if it were cheaper in the long run? Even if it resulted in decreased crime and fewer junkies on the streets?

And considering your tax dollars as a delicious pie, just how big of a slice do you think would be going to give junkies a free vacation at the Heroin Hilton, as compared to the size of the slice that funds billion-dollar military boondoggles?

It almost sounds like the logic is, well, this rewards bad behavior, so now everyone will want to be strung-out junkies, and I just don't think that's the case.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:52 PM on April 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Nitpick: they already know German. Spain and France were the usual actual or potential overlords.


I was hinting at the prospect of Holland being reclaimed by the sea and the Dutch moving east.

Which may still happen.
posted by ocschwar at 4:54 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It almost sounds like the logic is, well, this rewards bad behavior, so now everyone will want to be strung-out junkies, and I just don't think that's the case.


Well, an encounter with a strung out junkie is a pretty common experience inner city youth cite to explain their preference for staying clean. So a weaker form of this logic is plausible. Just not overwhelming.
posted by ocschwar at 4:56 PM on April 10, 2012


I wish my city was named with a definite article...

Move to the Bronx!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:56 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Bronx is a borough, sir, not a city.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wish my city was named with a definite article...

Move to the Bronx!


Or El Paso? Or Los Angeles?
posted by chimaera at 4:59 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Bronx is a borough, sir, not a city.

Close enough, close enough.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:02 PM on April 10, 2012


If they are in their early 50s ...

... and are being described as old, that depresses the hell out of 54 year old me
posted by pyramid termite at 5:03 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


A 50 year old lifelong junkie generally looks near the end of their mainspring wind, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:04 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


... and are being described as old, that depresses the hell out of 54 year old me


You're only as old as the shit you shoot in your veins, son.
posted by ocschwar at 5:06 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd happily pay for drug user's drugs instead of their much more expensive jail cells, which is what I'm paying for now.
posted by ook at 5:18 PM on April 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars

Your opinion is basically standard here in the US. What harm-reduction programs we have rely heavily on volunteers, and are constantly under political attack. Because we insist on believing these kinds of problems only happen to bad people who deserve them, and not to us. Instead of paying $1 to help, we'd rather pay $2 to punish them, if it helps maintain that illusion. And, unfortunately, this attitude extends far beyond our drug policy.
posted by aubilenon at 5:21 PM on April 10, 2012 [38 favorites]


griphus — Out of curiosity, what does "relapse" mean when you're talking about someone who is already taking heroin daily? Using it "unsupervised" rather than in the context of their treatment program? Taking more than their prescribed dose?
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:29 PM on April 10, 2012


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars.

Absolutely. That'd be taking crucial money out of the military-industrial complex that's keeping us FREE!


Well, somebody has to keep the Taliban from razing those poppy fields.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:45 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


How so? I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.

Please go read any or all of the studies linked here. Then consider if your feelings about how best to treat addiction and people who are addicts should trump the actual good - for both the addicts and the people who live around them - shown. And if so, why? We've got 40 years of proven failure for handling drug addiction - we should keep on keepin' on why, exactly?
posted by rtha at 6:07 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Using it "unsupervised" rather than in the context of their treatment program? Taking more than their prescribed dose?

Yeah, it probably means that they went outside of the maintenance program to get more heroin than they're provided.
posted by griphus at 6:10 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars.

Let go of your gut response and look at the numbers. Your stance might make sense if we weren't basically spending way more money on ambulances and emergency room treatment than we ever could spend with facilities like this.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:28 PM on April 10, 2012


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.

That's the typical moral-hazard argument. Americans should be very, very familiar with it. I understand it, but isn't it possibly self-refuting?

I mean, you seem to be arguing that you don't want to support this immoral behavior with your hard-earned tax dollars. That's a reasonable position, I think.

But what if this avenue is actually a better, more efficient use of your tax dollars than the system we have now? Then, you have to make a choice - is your position a moral one or a monetary one? (I know most people will fall somewhere in the middle, but...)

It's interesting, also, that you are fine with supporting treatment, but aren't willing to consider that this arrangement may actually constitute treatment.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:29 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars.

Compared to the financial and social cost of the "war on drugs?" It's a bargain!
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:29 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Melismata : Drug users generally don't live past their early 60s

Louis Armstrong, died at 71, illicit drug of choice: marijuana.
William Burroughs, " 83, " cocaine and opium.
Jean Cocteau, " 74, " opium.
Salvador Dali, " 85, " hashish.
Benjamin Franklin, " 84, " opium and marijuana.
Sigmund Freud, " 83, " cocaine.
Albert Hoffman, " 102, " lsd.
Dennis Hopper, " 74, " marijuana.
Cary Grant, " 82, " lsd.
Timothy Leary, " 76, " lsd and marijuana.
John C. Lilly, " 86, " lsd and ketamine.
Bela Lugosi, " 74, " morphine and opium.
Pablo Picasso, " 92, " opium.
Cole Porter, " 70, " cocaine.

I could go on.
posted by crunchland at 6:34 PM on April 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


You could go on to list every chain smoker, alcoholic and Valium addict that lived to be past 60 as well. "Drug user" is such a broadly-defined category that's it's useless, and when it is useful, it's in a legal sense and not a medical one.
posted by griphus at 6:49 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. Lived to 86 and was a ketamine user? Would not have thought that possible.

But yeah, generally drugs = short lives. Most drug users are on the streets and if the drugs don't get them the violence or homelessness will.

I'm pro-harm reduction. If someone is in enough emotional/psychological pain to get hooked, they're not thinking "Ooh, and I'll get to stay in this government-run housing program where I have to live by someone else's rules yay."

How many of us would happily head into any type of housing program run by any government, even a Dutch one? We all know we're better off being able to live our own lives. These programs are a chance for someone to avoid freezing to death or being beaten or raped repeatedly. It keeps patients who have mental health issue in combo with drugs under supervision instead of landing in the Emergency Room (and how much of your tax dollar goes to that?) over and over again.

Drugs aren't going away anytime soon, doesn't matter how much we'd like it to happen. Hopefully a more well-reasoned program can make the affects of addiction less deadly and painful for everyone.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:50 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Burroughs, I thought, kicked hard drugs long before he died, but continued to smoke marijuana and/or hashish. If so, it is pretty misleading to claim him as a counterexample.
posted by thelonius at 6:52 PM on April 10, 2012


Salmonberry: " Most drug users are on the streets and if the drugs don't get them the violence or homelessness will. "

Categorically not true. The drug users that you see and know to be drug users are on the streets.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


it is pretty misleading to claim him as a counterexample. -- Eh, since there were no qualifiers to the original claim, I'll stand by the list.
posted by crunchland at 6:59 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyway, this reminds me to look for the dream journals he published late in life. I read a review of it when it came out, and the impression I got was, the old man was mostly into his cats, receiving the occasional literary visitor, and smoking a little pot.
posted by thelonius at 7:09 PM on April 10, 2012


William Burroughs had a lifelong cycle of addiction/kicking/addiction and a pretty decent sized habit into his 70's. Burroughs was on a methadone maintenance program until he left NYC to live the last few years of his life in Lawrence, Kansas. A few people have told me that he actually continued on a methadone program in KS, but I don't have any hard evidence of this, other then some mutual acquaintances telling me.

I'm all for harm reduction in any way possible. I volunteered at a needle exchange program in college, and you could see the major difference in made in addicts lives. Offering people clean spikes, info on how to use drugs safely (as safe as they can be), and things like Narcan kits to stop overdoes save lives n the short and long term. They also reduce health care costs overall, because people get sick less. harm reduction programs are often the only contact addicts have with the non-addict world, so they are a vital opportunity to share information with the whole addict subculture. Theie worth in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis alone is invaluable.

Most of the problems that people associate with addicts are caused by two simple things:
1.) The drugs being illegal
2.) Drugs costing money that addicts don't have

Addicts are forced to hide, creep around and avoid the police because drugs are illegal. They end up in jail, which is supremely expensive and offers no positive benefit to society by nature of drugs being criminal.

Crimes like theft, breakins, muggings etc. are the by product of addicts not being able to hold down jobs and afford their fix. If you supply addicts with their drugs, they won't need to go out and steal to get them. In many cases, with a stable drug supply, they can easily become productive, working members of society. I think this is much more preferable then criminalizing an entire section of society that suffers from a medical condition: addiction.

I'm all for providing addicts with prescriptions to maintain their habits. It's cheaper then paying for jail, judges, public defenders, victims of crimes and health care costs associated with improper drug use.

The US is one of the only places in the world we treat addiction as a criminal issue instead of a medical one. It's a battle we've been losing since the 30's, and it's time to change that.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 7:45 PM on April 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


L.A. moves the needle

The city's early action in AIDS/HIV prevention by providing a needle exchange program proved to be prescient. Now is no time to back off.

posted by rtha at 7:51 PM on April 10, 2012


Louis Armstrong, died at 71, illicit drug of choice: marijuana.
William Burroughs, " 83, " cocaine and opium.
Jean Cocteau, " 74, " opium.
Salvador Dali, " 85, " hashish.
Benjamin Franklin, " 84, " opium and marijuana.
Sigmund Freud, " 83, " cocaine.
Albert Hoffman, " 102, " lsd.
Dennis Hopper, " 74, " marijuana.
Cary Grant, " 82, " lsd.
Timothy Leary, " 76, " lsd and marijuana.
John C. Lilly, " 86, " lsd and ketamine.
Bela Lugosi, " 74, " morphine and opium.
Pablo Picasso, " 92, " opium.
Cole Porter, " 70, " cocaine.


pretty much all those people were relatively well-to-do, though, which is a huge part of the equation. Being a poor addict is another matter altogether.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:02 PM on April 10, 2012


I've seen enough older addicts make their way through the criminal courts to know that it's pointless. There is nothing the courts or the jails can do to get them to stop using - the problem isn't motivation, because I haven't yet met an older addict who said, "Woo hoo! This is the lifestyle for me!"

One of the things I love about the Dutch is that, generally speaking, they are extremely practical with whatever problems they have. People urinating in public after the pubs close? Put urinals out in public on motorized pedestals that rise out of the sidewalks at night. People frequenting prostitutes? Give the sex workers licenses and help them form a union.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:01 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


All except the part about making legal drugs illegal for foreigners.
posted by crunchland at 9:08 PM on April 10, 2012


Salmonberry: " Most drug users are on the streets and if the drugs don't get them the violence or homelessness will. "

Categorically not true. The drug users that you see and know to be drug users are on the streets.


That's a good point. In Vancouver you sure do see a lot of them so it gets to be the first thing I think of.

One question I did have was about offering the cheap beer - I guess it'd depend on the alcohol percentage, but I wondered if that was such a good idea? I don't know, I've just thought of alcohol dependency as being worse on the body then a number of other drug addictions.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:08 PM on April 10, 2012


But yeah, generally drugs = short lives. Most drug users are on the streets and if the drugs don't get them the violence or homelessness will.

Well, except this isn't even kind of even remotely true.
posted by desuetude at 9:15 PM on April 10, 2012


crunchland All except the part about making legal drugs illegal for foreigners.

Recreational drug tourist foreigners causing more trouble than their money is worth? Make the drugs illegal for foreigners. The only reason Amsterdam is a drug tourism destination is because those drugs are illegal in the foreigners' own countries, hence tourism to indulge in them. Being tourists, these people are not exactly economically disadvantaged, nor is this a particularly compelling human rights issue (someone who moved to the Netherlands for medical reasons would become a permanent resident), so I expect the Dutch reasoning here is that the tourists should stay home and lobby their own stupid governments to fix their own stupid laws, rather than externalizing the costs of binge-indulgence onto the Netherlands.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:38 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looked up some info and I stand very, very much corrected. desuetude and others have it right:

Over the last decade, at any one time,
about 50% of injection drug users in Vancouver
reported that they lived in unstable housing
conditions, and approximately 10% reported that
they lived on the street with no fixed address.

posted by Salmonberry at 9:48 PM on April 10, 2012


Even if it's cheaper to enable them to stay addicted, I'm willing to bet that some of these people have more to offer the world if they got clean.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:53 PM on April 10, 2012


jonmc: "The Bronx is a borough, sir, not a city."

Fine. The Big Apple.
posted by symbioid at 9:55 PM on April 10, 2012


Even if it's cheaper to enable them to stay addicted, I'm willing to bet that some of these people have more to offer the world if they got clean.

Harm reduction sites like needle exchanges and InSite offer access to services. This is exactly how many addicts decide to get treatment: by being met where they are. The guy who's cut my hair for the last decade use to be a junkie, and he got clean in no small part because he could get clean works at the needle exchange, get minor medical care and advice there, he knew them and trusted them, and they treated him like a person instead of a junkie who should go away and die already.

If you look at the site I linked to, please click on the services they offer. You want addicts to have access to treatment? There you go.
posted by rtha at 10:18 PM on April 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Even if it's cheaper to enable them to stay addicted, I'm willing to bet that some of these people have more to offer the world if they got clean.

Investment banking: not even once.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:22 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if it's cheaper to enable them to stay addicted, I'm willing to bet that some of these people have more to offer the world if they got clean.

People doing well in good quality methadone treatment don't really count as addicted. While they might be physically dependent, the chaotic drug seeking behaviour, the escalating use, the criminal involvement are all absent.

So if they've got more to offer the world, it's not their dependence that's preventing them from delivering -- it tends to be the stigma of people who refuse to distinguish between chaotic addiction and remission through effective treatment.

It was the alcohol, not the hard drugs, that took René to the brink of death. A year ago, the doctors gave him three months to live. Liquor had destroyed his liver and his brain.


Just thought I'd throw that in there.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:30 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not remotely interested in supporting hard drug users on my tax dollars. Treatment, sure. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.

How about through your insurance premiums? Some people addicted to heroin will feel compelled to steal to finance their habit. They will damage property to access saleable goods and what they steal will attract only a fraction of the actual or covered value, so they have to steal a lot to cover their costs. This will drive up premiums for everyone, plus there is the misery of being broken into.

A harm reduction experiment in my home town in the 1990s gave 112 addicts heroin on prescription, in the period there was a 93% reduction in theft, burglary and property crime. Which do you think worked out cheapest?

During the experiment none of the addicts died of overdoses (typically 15% would have been expected to) and none contracted HIV.
posted by biffa at 2:08 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


. But 3 hots and a cot so they can shoot up? No thanks.

It's cheaper than having those particular users have to steal bikes and car radios and shit to support their habit, process them through the courts and keep them in jail.

Note that these projects are only aimed at the true hardcore harddrug users, the people who have been shooting up for decades and are physically and mentally incapable of getting clean.

Let's also note that Dutch drugs policy, with regard to the classic hard drugs (heroin, cocaine, LSD, speed) works: the biggest problem being that aging population of hard core addicts, not the continuing growth of hard drug use amongst younger people -- the pool of addicts is stagnant or even shrinking.

Which is in large part due to our soft drugs policy, where soft drug use (weed/hash) is "legal", the sale of them is tolerated but growth and wholesale illegal and prosecuted. You can buy and sell soft drugs without worrying about being hassled by the police, as long as you stick to the rules (no selling to minors, no hard drugs, no smoking in the coffeeshop unless it's pure marihuana with no tobacco, etc). This has meant that it's safe and easy for young people to experiment with safe drugs and not run the risk of getting hooked to the hard stuff like tobacco. It has also meant that your local coffeeshop is not a mafia front, but is a proper small business, sometimes run by the sort of people that in the US or UK would be making craft beer.

Where Dutch drug policies have failed is with "newer" drugs like XTC and meth, I suspect in some part due to the moral panics that have accompanied their uptake rather than because are uniquely dangerous drugs. These drugs are less regulated, their trade in the hands of true gangsters, less safe in general.

On the whole, the Dutch drugs policy is still the best in the world, though it could be better (full legalisation of soft drugs, less hysteria about XTC and such), but that is changing. There has always remained a fanatical core of drug warriors who want to end this policy of tolerance and unfortunately these are now in control in the Dutch government. The end result is a slow strangulation of the regulated soft drugs trade as coffee shops are nickled and dimed out of existence (can't be too close to a school, can't have too much stock, etc, etc) with the "wietpas" as the ultimate blow for most coffeeshops. IIRC starting from May this year coffeeshops will have to become members only, with membership only open to people who live in the Netherlands, a membership limit for each coffeeshop and a limit of the number of coffeeshops allowed in each municipality.

Which means for Amsterdam that in the worst case sscenario, about twentyfive percent of the tourists that visit each year will stay away if they can't go to a coffeeshop.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:09 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or like, just cancel the planned mellow bike holiday along the canals. Oh well. I'm sure folks will be happy not having tourists under foot.
posted by Goofyy at 5:51 AM on April 11, 2012


This has meant that it's safe and easy for young people to experiment with safe drugs and not run the risk of getting hooked to the hard stuff like tobacco.

Not to mention they probably don't even have contact with hard drug dealers, like they would in the US where marijuana tends to be sold (particularly at the wholesale level) by people who are also selling heroin.
posted by pjaust at 6:50 AM on April 11, 2012


Add me in to the chorus of "harm reduction is the way to go." I've seen the difference it makes, especially with regard to the addict's impact on others (crime, abuse of family, etc). I'd rather my tax dollars go to harm reduction than enabling someone to commit crimes and abuse their families, friends and random strangers. And I'm not an advocate of drug use (though it would be nice to see pot legalized and heavily taxed for the revenue).

I think the worst damage drug addicts (and alcoholics) do is to their families, especially their children. I wish more could be done for harm reduction for family members. In that vein, I think Woodstock is a great idea. It keeps people in a safe space, it seems to keep society as a whole from greater harm - the article mentions that crime has gone down since Woodstock has opened - and it relieves the families and children of any guilt about having to take care of someone who probably did not take good care of them, or stole from them, or abused them.

The youngest resident was born in 1967 - that hit me hard, as that is younger than I am. William Burroughs aside, drug addiction (and alcoholism) is terribly hard on most people, especially if they were poor and didn't have a good diet to begin with. The people on Flapjax' long-lived list were all affluent celebrities who could afford the best self-care other than drugs (and, might I add, they were/are all men; I wonder if that makes a difference). There is also a huge difference between regularly using marijuana and regularly shooting up heroin - the latter is much harder on the body and there is risk of contaminated needles.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:17 AM on April 11, 2012


"People who, in their early 50s, look as worn out as if they were in their 70s."

I like to call this the Shane MacGowan effect.

He was born on Christmas Day 1957, which makes him 54 today.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:04 AM on April 11, 2012


The US is one of the only places in the world we treat addiction as a criminal issue instead of a medical one.

Unless it's alcohol addiction. Then, everyone cares and offers help and understanding.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never understood our position in the United States of punishment instead of seeing what is actually taking place, a fucking medical disease!

Seriously, we are paying for drug use already. We spend billions of dollars on private prisons to lock up life long addicts, and people of minority status and poverty.

Think about that $40 k a year to lock up a drug user. Think of how we as a society could better utilize that kind of money to actually help these people. Shit, we could do maintance therapy and/or from my liberal standpoint, actually provide the drug of addiction in a safe, controlled, and even more important for the addict a clean fix. Think of the outreach opportunities. Most addicts I've met don't want to be an addict. I highly doubt most people wake up or say "when I grow up I want to be a junkie, always chasing a fix so I don't get sick as all hell, or worse die"

Not only that, we pay even more when you factor in the crime associated with drug abuse. Think of all the robberies, theft, fruad and violence we pay for due to our criminal approach for a mental/physical disease? The cost is astronomical!

Furthermore, the reasons drug users generally have shorter lifespans is due to lack of healthcare, and hygiene. Do you think a junkie cares about going to the doctor for something that probably could be treated if it was caught earlier? Do you think a junkie cares about their diet? In addition we will pay in our insurance premiums and tax dollars when the junkie has to be hospitalized for an OD or for a condition related to drug use. I doubt the bill is picked up by someone constantly hustling for their next $10 for a fix.

I wish people wouldnt be so judgmental and have more compassion. These are our brothers, our sisters, our friends. I'd bet most of us know someone with an addiction, even us in educated, or wealthy settings. The difference is a man or woman in a white coat is their legal dealer.

Goddamn this shit is depressing, and I wish America would pull its head out of its ass and think critically. If our approach has failed? Why haven't we tried something new, something different?
posted by handbanana at 9:21 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


*not so judgemental

Damn typo
posted by handbanana at 9:31 AM on April 11, 2012


3 hots and a cot

The Netherlands is a welfare state, so the "3 hots and a cot" is essentially an entitlement for any member of that society who cannot afford to purchase these necessities for himself: the elderly, the unemployed and so forth. Thus the addicts in "Woodstock" are being treated no better and no worse than anyone else in the society: they are generally unemployable because of drug habits that have not yielded to repeated attempts at treatment. They're disabled, in other words, as surely as if they had lost a limb or eyesight, and therefore they are not turned out onto the street where they will starve and freeze.

Meanwhile, their living in a controlled environment means they have a much smaller negative impact on their families and neighbors.

But apparently all of this put together -- charity for the helpless and improved quality of life for everyone else -- isn't as important to you as moral posturing.
posted by La Cieca at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It keeps people in a safe space, it seems to keep society as a whole from greater harm

And, according to the article, for at least some of the residents, it stabilizes them at much lower drug use levels that when they were on the street, so their health and quality of life is likely to improve.
posted by La Cieca at 10:25 AM on April 11, 2012


Incidently, as I just heard on the news, of the four things that most people will associate with the Netherlands (clogs, tulips, windmills and dope), it turns out it's weed that's the oldest, asrecent excavations in the east of the country found hemp seeds dating back to the 3rd century BCE....
posted by MartinWisse at 11:13 AM on April 11, 2012


And, according to the article, for at least some of the residents, it stabilizes them at much lower drug use levels that when they were on the street, so their health and quality of life is likely to improve.

There's that, too. I surmise that with a safe space to live, and perhaps the company of others like them, the residents don't have to shoot up even MORE heroin to numb the cold and stress of life on the streets.

And to further the idea of harm reduction to families and friends of addicts - if the addict has safe, guaranteed housing, and doesn't have to hustle, defraud, or rob from their families and friends to get a supply of their drug - that would cut way down on the pain and heartache to the families. How many posts on the green do we see that say something like "My drug-addicted sibling who lives with our mom is stealing from her, but mom won't kick them out or file a police report" and other co-dependent, heartbreaking situations. A safe place like Woodstock + harm reduction practices = far less need to steal from or mooch off of loved ones, and far fewer codependent loved ones who feel that it's either martyring themselves for the addict's sake or dooming the addict to die on the streets. (Sadly, child abuse is so much harder to prevent and combat; addiction is only one part of it.)

Finally, I don't have cites, but I am sure harm reduction and safe housing costs so much less than prison, emergency room services, crime, violence and other costs to society that addiction brings. Selfishly, if places like Woodstock mean safe streets with far lower rates of mugging and robbery, bring them on and I'll happily pay.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:17 AM on April 11, 2012


This is a really interesting approach to a rather dismal situation. What I like about this program and the other "wet house" programs is, as they repeatedly say, they meet the clients where they're at. While addiction is quite a slippery matter, I think it's pretty clear to anyone with experience that although the physiological mechanisms may be similar, there are many different and personal experiences of addiction. What may work for one person (methadone, tapered withdrawal, prison, AA, living with their parents while they get clean, etc) may not work for others. It's reminiscent of cancer - there's not just "cancer", there are many types, with many different treatments and outlooks, and we would do a disservice to anyone experiencing a multifaceted illness like that by treating them the same.

As unfortunate as it is, it makes sense that there may be people with intractable addiction that will eventually lead to their death and has very little chance of ever being cured. In which case, it certainly makes more sense to switch the focus to what can be done to increase the quality of life for whatever time they have left rather than futile attempts to cure the illness. I don't think it makes sense as a first-line approach, but it's better than nothing and a hell of a lot better than putting someone with an incurable disease through even more pain and suffering, especially if all they want is to die in peace.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:15 PM on April 11, 2012


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