Comic Books for Drug Addicts 

Comic Books for Drug Addicts 
Posted by CN Staff on August 07, 2002 at 11:56:29 PT
By Dan Bilefsky, The Wall Street Journal
Source: Wall Street Journal 
Manchester, England — Sitting in a drug counseling center’s waiting room, Elizabeth Forrest giggles as she scans a comic book explaining “how to roll a perfect joint” in nine easy steps.      “This is hilarious,” the 25-year-old heroin addict says, pointing to a cartoon warning that smoking too much marijuana can be fattening. The sketch shows an overweight man eating from a dog-food bowl as his pet barks in disapproval.
The comic book, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Cannabis, An Insider’s Guide,” is one of dozens published by Lifeline, a nonprofit drug-counseling group in the United Kingdom, that give tips on how to smoke pot or drop acid and still look and feel good. “How to Survive Your Parents Discovering You’re a Drug User” counsels teens not to stash pot in coat pockets since that’s the first place parents will look. A Lifeline’s guide to cocaine warns against snorting off the groove of an old vinyl LP record because “it is somewhat wasteful.”    GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY     The comics have fans throughout Europe and a cult following in prisons, where they are traded like baseball cards. Now they are also at the center of a growing controversy, after revelations that Lifeline gets £4 million ($6.3 million or 6.2 million) a year in funding from the British government.    The books “try and be cool and radical but all they are doing is offering ‘how to’ tips masquerading as health advice,” says Peter Stoker, director of Britain’s National Drug Prevention Alliance.    Though Lifeline has published the comics for 15 years, both the guides, and the fact that Lifeline is government subsidized, largely escaped public awareness. But ahead of the government’s recent decision to liberalize some of its drug laws, officials conducted a comprehensive review of the drug-related nonprofits it funds. As a result, Lifeline and its comics suddenly became a focus of antidrug groups’ anger.    Some of Lifeline’s public funding comes from Britain’s central government, but most is from local government contracts distributed by the city of Manchester’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team, which supports drug outreach programs. Lifeline says it funds its publication division from sales of its comic books to other nonprofit groups, not with government money. The Home Office, which is Britain’s national department of internal affairs, and the Manchester group both refused to comment on the uproar or on Lifeline’s funding.      Some in the parliament want to pull Lifeline’s funding. “Lifeline offers up a drug culture that is blame free, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it,” says Angela Watkinson, a member from the conservative party. Her views have been echoed by newspapers, political and social leaders and even British law-enforcement officials. Still, the complaints haven’t prompted the government to change its policy.    Lifeline, which also operates a needle exchange program, says it simply is taking a pragmatic approach that keeps drug users safe, healthy and alive. It began publishing its comic books in 1987, after its research showed antidrug pamphlets didn’t resonate with users. “To preach against drugs is an immoral form of propaganda since you are conning people into thinking you can really cure drug use when you can’t,” says Michael Linnell, Lifeline’s director of communications and the co-designer of the comics .    MANAGING ADDICTIONS    Lifeline sends about one million of its books every year to high school counseling offices, drug-counseling centers and nightclubs. But the organization recommends in its publications catalog that people under 16 use the materials only with adult supervision. Some of the publications even carry warnings about their content on their covers. Lifeline emphasizes that its harder-core pamphlets are aimed at users and aren’t meant for young people.     Mr. Linnell says that while he and Lifeline’s staff of 200 don’t promote illegal drugs, they do accept drug use as a fact. People need to learn how to manage their addictions, he says, so they won’t overdose or become ill and so they can, in the best cases, continue to function. Lifeline’s philosophy is that instead of quitting altogether, addicts can reduce health risks by embracing less hazardous behavior such as using sterile needles for shooting heroin or smoking fewer joints. “It would be lovely if all teenagers were church-going virgins who never took drugs, but that is a fantasy that just doesn’t exist,” he says, citing a government study that found more than half of British teens under 16 have tried drugs at least once.    Mr. Stoker, of Britain’s drug prevention alliance, considers Lifeline’s approach dangerous. “Lifeline is arguing for less risky approaches to drug use but we say that you need to say no to drugs altogether ... harm reduction is a dishonest title for a process which seeks to loosen control and validate drug use.”    Yet, Lifeline’s publications do advocate moderation and show how ugly drug use can be. In “Brown for Beginners,” a cartoon character shakes violently in bed as a demonic needle hovers overhead; the caption says, “With a heroin withdrawal the pain is there, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.” In “The Time Tripper,” a hippie on acid, winds up in the “hall of heavy Karma, where the souls of all the animals he has eaten during his life hang out.” And “Everything You Wanted to Know About Cannabis” warns that “excessive use of cannabis can make people lazy and unmotivated.”    But for the most part, the comics offer practical advice — how to take Ecstasy and avoid looking washed out (“eat regularly and try to balance your diet”) and whether to eat one or two slices of “space” cake baked with cannabis (“try half a piece of cake and wait an hour, then decide whether or not you fancy the other half”).      Ms. Forrest, who appears much older than her age, started on heroin when she was 20 and says she would probably be dead had she not learned how to find a vein from “Better Injecting.” It also told her she had been using too much citric acid to dissolve her heroin, which can cause severe abscesses. “The pamphlets understand what it’s like to be on drugs,” she says.    In the Netherlands, Mainline Lady, a magazine aimed at female heroin users, also offers advice. One recent article suggested how to treat cocaine-weathered dry skin: Use lots of moisturizer. Another warned against carrying more cash than necessary when visiting a dealer, and the horoscope told Geminis that “you might put on weight if you’re lucky.” “People are going to do drugs anyway, so we might as well help them to be safer and more beautiful,” says Jasperine Schupp, editor of the magazine. Mainline Lady, which also gets government funding, is distributed free to about 5,000 users in Amsterdam.    New York’s Positive Health Project, a nonprofit that helps heroin users and people with AIDS, is planning a U.S. version of Mainline Lady. Jason Farrell, the group’s director, says he hopes to have enough money to start publishing in the coming year or so; he wants the magazine to stress health and safety with self-defense tips for prostitutes and suggestions on gaining weight to heroin addicts.    Rev. Paul Flower, a Methodist minister who sits on Lifeline’s board, agrees. “Lifeline publications would never make it in the U.S. because the culture is so different,” he says. “The Brits like dealing with truth rather than hypocrisy.”    Note: U.K. group offers tips on managing addiction. Source: Wall Street Journal (US) Author: Dan Bilefsky, The Wall Street JournalPublished: August 7, 2002Copyright: 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Contact: wsj.ltrs Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special and Drugs - The Nation To Let Pot Smokers Off Lightly Opens Up Drugs Laws
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Comment #3 posted by elfman_420 on August 07, 2002 at 17:26:18 PT
I know it's just a joke.. but..
"smoking too much marijuana can be fattening."I went from 210 lbs to 145 lbs.. i've lost 65 pounds, all since I started smoking regularly about 2 years ago.It made me want to eat better, I'm now a semi-vegetarian, but that has only been in the last 9 months. 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on August 07, 2002 at 12:31:26 PT
Dr. Russo here's the website!
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo MD on August 07, 2002 at 12:25:31 PT:
A Reasonable Approach
Harm reduction is the name of the game with drug education.If anyone has access to these publications and could get copies, or scan them, etc., I would love to see them.
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