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Bad Dope On Every Corner: From The Us Government And The Ama

Bad Dope On Every Corner: From The Us Government And The Ama image
Parent Issue
Day
5
Month
September
Year
1973
OCR Text

Note: Dr. Riek Kunnes is an M.D. and a psvehiatrist. He has been in practice in Ann Arbor for two years, and divides his time between working at the University Hospital, Drug Help and the Crisis Waik-In Center. The author of two books, "Your Monry or Your Life, "and "The American Heroin Empire, "Riek is working on a third book, to be print ed early thisfall, entitled "Therapy and Repression. " What follows is a conversation SUN reporters had with Riek recently, on the dope in our si reets and how, care of the U.S. go ver nment and the American Medical Association (A.M.A.), that dope gets there. SUN: The main focus of your work is drug problems, right? Riek: Yes, my primary work is in drug education, teaching people about drug abuse. Specifically, I try to give people, both students and patients, political education about the causes of drug abuse, as opposed to teaching them the physiological effects. 1 teach where drugs come from, how they are used for control, and how they destroy communities. SUN: Wouldyou elabórate on that? Riek: Okay, I don't believe that we have a quaalude problem in one part of town, and a heroin problem in another par?, and so on - all hard drugs are part and parcel of the same problem, it is all drug addiction, whatever the name of the drug may be. My feeling is that the only solution is revolution, we are not going to be able to rid ourselves and our communities of destructive drugs with just token measures. The real changes have to come with political changes, like getting rid of the corporate drug companies that vastly over-produce drugs, and getting rid of the CIA, which is deeply involved in the heroin trade and, finally, getting rid of a government which tolerates and condones the free flow of addictive drugs. SUN: How do we begin such revolution in our own Uves? Riek: Well, let me give you an example. In Ann Arbor there are lots of known smack pushers. There is no reason why they can't be identified and photographed and their pictures put up on posters all over the city. Too often people work alone, isolated and alienated, but by organizing into groups with other people who are also afflicted, we can begin to deal with our common oppression. SUN: Is giving someone a political education going to get them off junk or quaaludes? Riek: Well, I think if you give people an overall perspective on why drugs are used in this country, how they are a counterinsurgency tooi used to cool them out, to pacify them and prevent insurrections and prevent the development of politically conscious people, then they can begin to attack their own and others' drug problems. There is a collective of ex-junkies in New York, for example, called "White Lightning," and they are highly political people who work in all the areas of survival needs in their neighborhoods - they work for food, clothes, housing, and medical care for their people. These people have essentially cured themselves, they will never go back on junk, and they are involved in meaningful political work. It comes down to selfdetermination, taking control of your own life and your own community - anything less than that is just a stop-gap. SUN: You say drugs are a counter-insurgency tooi; are drugs, then, brought into the country by the people in power, the government? Riek: Well, take the example of quaaludes. Last year the drug companies manufactured over 150 million quaaludes. This is far more than could ever be used in any legitímate sense. The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Bureau of Dangerous Drugs never required the drug companies to test quaaludes for addiction before they were produced and marketed, in spite of the fact that there was study after study, as early as 1965, of national epidemics of quaalude addiction in Japan, Australia, England and Germany. Since the government has refused to act on information that was readily available, it must be supporting the overproduction and influx of drugs into our communities. It is also obvious that the pólice departments in all our major cities are totally tied up in the distribution and protection of drugs. SUN: So the government pushes dope to cool the people out? Riek: Yes, heroin addiction only became a problem in this country after 1965, after the major riots in Detroit, Watts and Newark, when all the cities were getting too hot for the government to' handle. After the riots, heroin really began to flow into the ghettos, and it was after the development of the fust strong freak community, in Haight-Ashbury, that heroin became readily available to young, white people. The U.S. involvement in S.E. Asia during the same period of time opened up large fields of opium and poppies for U.S. development. The CIA brings the heroin from S.E. Asia to South America, where it is processed and packaged and readied for distribution by CIA-paid anti-Castro Cuban exiles. You can do an entire political analysis of the American power structure today just by studying drug trafficking. The situation is analogous to that in China in the mid-1800's, when the American government was heavily active in the forced cultivation of large quantities of opium there, which was used to quiet and quell the rebellious elements, thereby allowing an unresisted take-over by the American forces. The government pushes the notion that we are peor, sick individuals, who need heroin or librium or ritalin or what have you, and that keeps the people from realizing that the whole society we live in is sick. The government uses drugs to keep the people cooled out, smacked back and controlled, and it stays in power. SUN: IsAnnA rbor ahead of o t her communities in terms of dealing with drug problems, and in the nwnber of services available? Riek: The service programs here, like Drug Help and the Mental Health Center and the others, are just token programs in terms of the need that exists, and they are going to remain token programs until people deal with the political realities behind drugs. Political education is the essence of preventitive medicine for drug problems. SUN: Are there any other people here who are into education as a means of preventitive medicine? Riek: There are a few people at Drug Help, but the overwhelming majority of the medical profession, including all the hospitals here, want to have as little to do with drug problems as possible. Time and time again we have tried to get people with drug problems into the hospitals, and they simply say, we have no beds, we don't want to deal with it. It is virtually impossible to get people de-toxified, whether it jbe from heroin, quaaludes or alcohol, at any Ann Arbor hospital. We must at some point begin to march on the hospitals and say, look, we have sick people here, they need treatment, we demand that you treat them, and we're going to sit in your emergency rooms until you do. We must publicize and emphasize the neglect and irresponsibility on the part of the medical profession and its institutions in this community. They are literally getting away with murder, we have this massive drug problem and they don't do shit about it. The hospitals choose to ignore the problem and push it off onto Drug Help. SUN: If we didn 't have Drug Help and the Free Clinic, would the hospitals be more responsive to the drug problem? Riek: I have very mixed feelings about programs like the Free Clinic, because here we are in a community that passes itself off as having some of the greatest medical resources in the world, and yet we are faced with the necessity for people to do volunteer work or work for subsistence wages, in order to provide low-cost medical care to the community. So, in a way, the free service programs take the burden off University Hospital and the other hospitals, so they can refuse to deal with drug abuse, and focus their enormous resources on the needs of their wealthy clientèle. SUN: But Drug Help is not really equipped to handle the drug problem conclusively, is it? Riek: Right, I think about that virtually all the time, that we don't even have one completely equipped clinic here, that is free to the people. The main value of our service programs is the example they set of how ordinary people, with just primitive training and determination, can opérate a program that is a real service'to the community. They show up the hospitals for what they really are, institutions oriented towards the wealthy. SUN: Is the attitude of the hospitals here ty pical of the medical profession as a vhole? Riek: Sure, you look at the major medical jourhals, and they are pushing pills for the rich - librium for the depressed housewife, the businessman with an ulcer, and ritalin to make kids sit down and shut up in the classroom. The A.M.A. concentrates on money-making ventures, it doesn't serve the people, and it also puts forth an elitist position about helping drug users. lts ideology is that the drug user is an isolated, sick individual, and that only special people possess the special skills, available at a high cost, to treat such individuals. In fact, there is no such thing as therapeutic skills, that is a great myth, and all it really takes to help the drug user is for one human being to reach out to another, teach him or her, and bring them back from addictiondependencyisolation. Drug problems are a collective problem, and a resul t of the oppressive system we live under. Doctors don't help people to be politically conscious, they just push pills. SUN: Would you sum all that up? Riek: Sure - I'm convinced that we are faced with a life-and-death crisis, and it is time for some active self-defense. We cannot look to the government or the established medical profession to resolve the crisis, because they are largely responsible for it and they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. It is up to us, the people in this community, to take the situation in hand and deal with it.