Harm Reduction’s Not Just About Heroin and Cocaine

I’m a Belgian drug user activist. I’ve been attracted to drug taking as long as I can remember. I met my drug of choice (speed) in Germany 1990 when I was in the army. I got it from my army-friend who was an Ostend fisherman. I’ve never injected, says Stijn Goosens. In the early ninety’s I started to go to techno, drum and bass (then called ‘jungle’) gigs. I paid 20 Euro for my first XTC, which is incredible knowing that now it costs 1 Euro.

I still go out partying now and then.

In 2000 I met with people from ‘BAD’ Belangervereninging Antwerpse Druggebruikers. At that time BAD was a drug user organization for the Antwerp heroine and coke-scene. I was working in the Antwerp night shelter for homeless people then and therefore knew lots of the guy’s from the street-scene. In 2001, three friends & me (among them the president of BAD) started working to develop a peer support project for the people who use drugs in the party-scene. Organizing Breakline Peer Support is still one of my voluntary jobs. In 2002 I was elected to the board of BAD (where I met Joep Oomen from ENCOD) and I started organizing the street-scene. This went very well for a while. In no time we went up from about 20 to 150 paying members. The summer of 2002 was a crazy adventure. Because of a change in my professional job I couldn’t do the BAD-coordination anymore. I kept on managing Breakline dough.

In order not to completely loose the users voice that we’ve been building for some years, Joep Oomen, Tonny Van Montfoort and I then founded STAD.

In 2005 I went to the annual International Harm Reduction Conference (IHRC)) in Belfast as a member of a drug user organization. This is where I became active on the International level.

My wife Katrien and I love each other since 1990. We have two children. Morris is two and Katrijn is six years old. I’m a speed user since 1991 having an on and off relationship with it during the most part of the 90’s. I have been stabilised on speed for some years now as thankfully, since spring of 2004 I have ‘amphetamine sulphate D’ from my family doctor so I’m not depended on illegal speed anymore.

I would like to promote this possibility for other speed and/or coke users. Doctors cannot prescribe amphetamine for speed users in Belgium, but my family doctor worked very client cantered with me. First times that I met with her, we worked towards me quitting. For me it was mainly my social environment and the fact that quitting was the only known option that made me decide to try to quit. By calling it ‘trying’ to quit, I knew for myself that I couldn’t.

I talked to my doctor about some people I knew that killed themselves after quitting and that I feared experiencing the same. I also talked of a friend who used Prozac each time he wanted to quit for a period of time. So we tried Prozac. I kept on using my speed the first three weeks that I took it. The Prozac only kicks in after three weeks. I actually never stopped using speed and few weeks later my doctor and me decided to stop the Prozac (in stages).

It worked for this friend, not for me. (But: info got around thru peer support!)

So now I was looking in which cases doctors do can prescribe amphetamine-like products. Doctors can prescribe it for various reasons. People who suffer chronic fatigue for instance can get amphetamine or, if you’re diagnosed with ‘attention deficit and hyperactive disorder’ (ADHD) you can have Methylphenidate known as Ritalin, which is an amphetamine-like product, on prescription.

I read that there is no clinical test, which can decide if you have ADHD, or not. My doctor and I decided that i have ADHD. We did some administration for a medical commission (amphetamine-like products are under special regulation). I started taking methylphenidate. My illegal speed use dropped, but I didn’t quit. Then I read that in some cases, people with ADHD can get amphetamine Sulphate D, which is a kind of pure amphetamine. The moment I read this, I started craving… I can have amphetamine instead of methylphenidate, which is only something like amphetamine!

I went to see my doctor and told her the new idea. And we went on with it. I am now able to work without worrying about the medical issue all the time. I’m involved with many different organisations working at a local, national and international level promoting harm reduction and/or drug policy reform generally. These organisations include STAD, Breakline and ENCOD (www.encod.org).

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