Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jul 2004
Source: Royal Gazette, The (Bermuda)
Copyright: 2004 The Royal Gazette Ltd.
Author: Matthew Taylor
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Police say heroin use is on the up while those in the drug world say 
addicts are moving back to needles, sparking a fear of a new deadly HIV 

Hundreds of lives were lost in Bermuda at the height of needle sharing in 
the 1980s and 1990s but heroin users then moved to snorting and smoking the 
drug as AIDS awareness grew.

Now needles are moving back into fashion according to drug counsellors and 
users. And Acting Chief Medical Officer Brenda Davidson said: "I have no 
official information on that but certainly from my own observations I can 
confirm I have seen needle use recently.

"It is very much a concern. It is incredibly dangerous."

Sandy Butterfield, of drugs counselling service Focus, said the rise in 
heroin use was because of increased availability while she confirmed needle 
use was back in fashion.

One heroin user of 18 years told The Royal Gazette low grade drugs were to 
blame for addicts moving back to needles as they sought to get a bigger 
kick out of heroin which was sometimes only 25 percent pure.

He said: "By the time it hits Bermuda it has been through three different 

"It comes in 40 percent pure and then someone here shakes it down and it's 
30 percent or 25 percent pure."

Addicts used to paying $50 for their habit are having to pay four times 
that to get the same high so they were now resorting to needle-use which 
packs more punch, said the user.

The 41-year-old, who is in counselling and methadone treatment, said he had 
lost a lot of friends in the first needle epidemic and feared history could 
repeat itself.

He said needle use was more discrete than in the previous epidemic but some 
addicts could be seen shooting up in Court Street in the early hours.

Dirty needles were turning up in Court Street car parks after addicts threw 
them out of car windows and posed a hazard to children, said the man.

"A lot of people have gone back to needles over the last two and a half 
years. I would not advise this. It is not as if you can go and buy them 

He said some people said they could get clean ones but Dr. Davidson said 
they could be deluding themselves.

Dr. Davidson said: "Individuals who are involved in it maintain they keep 
their own and don't share them.

"But that is an optimistic view because when they get high their judgment 
is impaired and they are not in a position to be sure. "It only takes one 
dirty needle used one time to get the infection."

Assistant Commissioner Carlton Adams said at press conference Tuesday that 
heroin use was increasing.

He said: "Cannabis remains the drug of choice but it has been observed by 
senior members of the narcotics section that heroin use is on the increase."

The addict said heroin was easily available at $10 a bag and people were 
enticed by the drug's initial ability to increase stamina in sex and work.

But 18 years down the line he is now counting the cost of the addiction.

"It destroyed my life. It made me lose my house."

The self employed plumber from Hamilton Parish said he was able to hold a 
job for a while but would then nod off standing up and could only work 
after had taken the drug. Diarrhoea and stomach cramps also made it 
difficult to function properly.

In Bermuda, ten cases of HIV were reported to the Health Department last 
year with 30 percent in the 20-29 year age group.

Michael Fox, executive director of HIV charity the Allan Vincent Smith 
Foundation, said he was very concerned about the rise in needle use.

In the earlier years of the disease most fatalities were through needle 
sharing but now the proportion is around 40 percent as more people contract 
it through sexual intercourse, which he is also extremely worried about.

He said: "I am very concerned if needle sharing is on the rise.

"We need a lot more social dialogue on HIV.

"Not just the non governmental organisations but the community, churches. 
It's a community problem.

"(People think) it's nobody's fault and nobody's responsibility but it's 
everybody's fault and everybody's responsibility."
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