05/03/18 Christoph Buerki

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Christoph Buerki

Dr. Christoph Buerki the Swiss designer heroin injection program Pt2, Howard Wooldridge Dir Citizens Opposing Prohibition, Sen Chuck Schumer, Dr Gupta & Dr Oz

Audio file


MAY 3, 2018


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Indeed, this is Cultural Baggage, I am the Reverend Dean Becker. Thank you for being with us today for this edition of Drug Truth Network programming. I've got so much stuff, I'll tell you what, let's just get right to it here. There we go.

Over the last few weeks, I've brought on a couple of my allies from the Baker Institute, from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Today, I have another gentleman I've worked with for well over a decade now, a man who now has -- heads up Citizens Opposing Prohibition, a former cop, a former speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a man who patrols the hallways and the offices of our US Congress and Senators on a daily basis there in Washington, DC, my friend, my ally, Mister Howard Wooldridge.

How are you, sir?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Dean, real well here in the belly of the beast, good to hear from you.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, now, thanks to your pioneering work, last month I went to Bern, Switzerland, while there I got a chance to meet your friend, Doctor Christoph Buerki, who is the designer, if you will, of the Swiss heroin injection program, and we featured half of my interview with him last week, we're going to feature the other half here in just a little bit, but, tell us, how did you meet Doctor Buerki?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: I met Doctor Buerki, in 2001, when he was the director of the treatment clinic for heroin addiction in the capitol of Bern, Switzerland, and we hit it off. Gave me a great tour. We stayed in contact, and 16, 17 years later, we're still professional friends and colleagues.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Howard, you have certainly toured Europe, the UN General Assembly or whatever, the meetings over there, a couple of times over the years as well. Tell us about that interaction, please.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, I've attended three of the United Nations conferences on drugs in Vienna, Austria, to see what could be done at the international level to end the worldwide prohibition which, you know, Dean, that 1961 Single Convention Treaty, and it was my analysis and that of LEAP's Neill Franklin and others, that the United Nations is worse, by far, than our Congress in terms of even approaching or talking about the issue of changing the prohibition.

So, I went in 2016, and unless something changes, I don't expect to go back, because it's just not worth the time and money and effort.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Howard, I talked to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction about the fact that it was fellows like Harry J. Anslinger, back in the early part of the twentieth century, that convinced America that the moral thing to do was to have this prohibition, and that he then took that to the United Nations and basically convinced the rest of the world. Am I right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Essentially, plus, in 1961, the United States was the single biggest, dominant power in the world, even more than today, so, when we demanded the prohibition, the world just said okeh.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and what have we wrought, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, you know, I describe the war on drugs, this modern prohibition, as the most destructive, dysfunctional, and immoral, immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow. Kids are shot every day selling drugs off sidewalks, and people just yawn.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And thousands, tens of thousands, are now dying each year from the contaminated drugs, and again, a big yawn, it seems, right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right. That's where the Swiss have been the pioneer, now copied in six European countries, where a small portion of their addicted population, they give them pure heroin twice a day, and no one has died after ten million doses, because it's pure, legal, heroin checked by technicians.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and, you know, I've been thinking back to when this all started. There was the great concern about the snake oil salesmen out there selling these unknown products to people, you know, with promises of great benefit. And I think in essence we still have snake oil salesmen out there, selling crap that people anticipate being of great benefit, but truth be told, nobody knows what's in that bag they're selling. Right?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: That is correct, and that's why we're losing about a hundred and twenty American citizens a day, because they don't know what they're buying, or they relapse and get the incorrect dose, and for those reasons, we need to look at the Swiss model as a great step forward in saving the lives of those people. If they had access to the same heroin that patients do in Switzerland, essentially nobody has to die tomorrow.

DEAN BECKER: And that is the point, isn't it, because of this prohibition, we're -- we set people up for failure, because there's just no telling what they're buying on any given day.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right. And the general conception is still that, since the heroin is not good for you, of course, whiskey and cigarettes aren't either, but with the heroin, we still take the moral attitude that we must prevent you from having access to a safe drug, and not understanding addiction, we have those people going to the streets and dying at a hundred and twenty per day.

DEAN BECKER: And, Howard, you know, I had a really interesting time over there. I got to meet some of the top dogs, if you will, the, I got to interview Doctor Goulão, the Portuguese drug czar, Mister Wiessing, there at the European Monitoring Centre, and they even invited me to speak to their scientific group, to invite the police chief, and the commissioner, and it was a great discussion, with no fear of, you know, what topic we might open. Your thought there, please.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, certainly the Europeans are lightyears ahead of America in terms of applying science and research to the issue of drug use and abuse. The Portugal experiment -- not experiment, the Portugal experience now, what, 17 years running, has shown the world you can decrim and not increase drug consumption, and the Swiss model.

The good news is, some cheerful news, is that I'm going to speak to a group in Norway, in Oslo, in a week, and they are on the verge of going Portugal, which is amazing for a Scandinavian country that was always hard, hard line.

DEAN BECKER: But, they're learning from the experience in Portugal, as you say, that the sky will not fall, and lives will be saved.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah, it only took 17 years of great research and numbers to convince the Norwegians, and nobody else has done it. As you know, Dean, in Europe, the Norwegians will be the first, if their plan goes forward as expected.

DEAN BECKER: Here in the United States, we have several cities, several county and city commissioners, people talking about the need for it here in these United States, no one has actually done it as yet, but the truth of the matter, the common sense of it all, is starting to shine rather brightly, is it not?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: To be plain spoken, because you've got a hundred and twenty mostly white people and rich people dying, America is now actually searching for a solution more than just let them all die. As you know, the racism has been a fundamental part of this policy since Nixon declared the war on black and brown people, back in 1971, but still, despite the great numbers of white people dying, the white power structure has been slow, and is just now beginning to take notice that they should do something different besides let them all die.

DEAN BECKER: The recent issue of information from Doctor Sanjay Gupta, the guy who put forward the idea that marijuana was good for kids with epilepsy, and whose thought caught traction across the country, helped to create new laws across these United States, is now saying that marijuana is of benefit for those trying to quit opium addiction.

I have high hopes that he's going to swing that cat widely again. Your thought there, Howard Wooldridge.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: And this is just a sign of the times, that you have highly respected doctors who are pointing out that god's green medicine is highly effective in a number of areas, and we're just scratching the surface.

And certainly, from little boys and girls with the grand mal seizures, up to people who are addicted to heroin and dying on the streets today, we need to open up the plant for research and immediately allow people to use this, like our veterans, who are suffering from PTSD and dying at twenty per day.

The veterans are also a big voice now in Washington, DC, in the halls of Congress, to move the marijuana research forward, based on, we need to take care of our veterans. So, it's a gathering storm of supporters from all over the place to move the issue forward. I'm highly optimistic that it's going to be done in the next two calendar years.

DEAN BECKER: From your mouth to god's ear. Folks, we've been speaking with Mister Howard Wooldridge. He heads up Citizens Opposing Prohibition, out there on the web at CitizensOpposingProhibition.org. Howard Wooldridge, thank you sir.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: You're welcome, Dean, keep it up.

DEAN BECKER: This is Doctor Sanjay Gupta, speaking to Doctor Oz.

SANJYA GUPTA, MD: Here's the most compelling thing for me, was that when you take opioids, within a few days, your brain changes. That's what they call the brain disease, your brain is changed, and you are no longer able to really have the same judgment, the same decision making, the same ability to quit. You can't just say no anymore, it's egregious to ask people to just say no, if their brain is changed in this way.

Cannabis, specifically a component known as CBD, can help heal the brain. So treat the pain, treat the withdrawal, heal the brain. If you had to design something, Oz, to get us out of this opioid epidemic, it would probably look very much like cannabis, and it needs to be studied. It needs to be treated with the respect that it deserves.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Shortness of breath, slow heartbeat, weight gain, fatigue, hypotension, dizziness, may mask the symptoms of low blood sugar, stopping therapy abruptly has led to chest pain and heart attacks. Time's up! Talk about dependence, the answer, from GlaxoSmithKline: Coreg, for hypertension, heart failure, and heart attacks.

All right. This is the Reverend Dean Becker. As I was mentioning to Howard, we did that interview with Doctor Christoph Buerki, half of it last week, we have the other half for this week. Let's see if I can get it cued up here and share it with you. And here we go.

The following is part two of my discussion with Doctor Christoph Buerki, the inventor of the Swiss heroin injection program.

My hope, my goal, and again, I'm a former cop, I want to legalize all drugs.


DEAN BECKER: I want them to be made by Merck and Pfizer.


DEAN BECKER: Not some Mexican farmer who's mixing cartel --


DEAN BECKER: -- fentanyl all together.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Yeah. And, may I say something?


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Because I have been to the US as well, like, last year, and I, with a big smile, I drove through Colorado and listened to the radio ads of marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: How good this one is, that [inaudible] the other, yes.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: I think it's great, that tendency, that marijuana is taken out of, I mean, to punish somebody because he consumes marijuana, it's frankly quite a stupid thing to do.

And, however, I think it's a bit problematic, as a psychiatrist, I'm of course aware that marijuana is not without risks.


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: And, if we talk about legalization, I would very strongly think we should prohibit commercial advertising --


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: -- for those [inaudible]

DEAN BECKER: I'm with you. I'm with you.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Basically, same with cigarettes and alcohol, it shouldn't be advertised, on TV and cinemas, on billboards somewhere. It shouldn't --

DEAN BECKER: That's just glamorizing it, yeah.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: And the same thing, we shouldn't do with drugs, be it marijuana, be it whatever psychoactive substance.


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Bit of a criticism to legalization movement in the US. It goes like from one extreme, the total demonization of relatively, a relatively harmless substance called marijuana, to a consumer product that even needs advertising and --

DEAN BECKER: It doesn't need much advertising at all.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: It's a bit extreme, those pendulum swings.

DEAN BECKER: I like to look back, the United States had a 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act --


DEAN BECKER: -- which said -- up til then, it had been snake oil salesmen, and, you know, buy this, it will --


DEAN BECKER: -- give you a [inaudible], or whatever, but, the truth was, the 1906 Act required that the manufacturer label very specifically what was in the product.


DEAN BECKER: And I think that's -- we could stop right there, because, like I told Doctor Goulão, that, you know, if somebody, if there's kerosene and foot fungus in the cocaine, which there is, coming out of Colombia, because of the manufacturing process, maybe small amounts, but if somebody likes kerosene and foot fungus and they're willing to buy it, seeing it there on the label, then we ought to let them buy it.

And, I guess the point I'm getting at is, you know, people are going to do brave things. I think that's a lot of what drug use is, is bravado, thinking I can face down this lion. I can do it on a daily basis.


DEAN BECKER: I don't know. I'm drifting off here, but I think the point I'm getting at is that there are a lot of factors that lead people to take drugs. I'm not saying that kerosene and foot fungus is one, but I'm just saying, through labeling the product, people would know exactly what they're buying, and they would be liable for that. Then, we could judge people by their actions, like we used to, rather than the baggy in their pocket. Your response to that, please.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Well, it's a philosophical question, because we're in both our societies very far away from such things, and our compromise in Switzerland, and I think it's not a bad compromise, is --

DEAN BECKER: Oh, no, I admire it.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: -- is starting prescribing it through doctors, the heroin. Yeah, I mean, heroin is strong stuff, one must admit, and it is, you can get over it, of course, but it doesn't go easily. It does have side effects, it also restricts your life at the moment, the way you -- the way it's prescribed in the clinic. There's no take home doses of heroin. It's no fun to be a patient in a heroin prescription clinic.

But it's a compromise, it's medicalized through that, it's made sure that what patients get and take is clean and pure. And maybe also one aspect, I think it's important to realize, it's also, the heroin prescription, giving out the heroin every day, is only a means to get into touch with people.


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: And to really get them into treatment. I think that's the biggest value of this type of program, that you can get in touch with people. You see them every day twice, you can intervene, when they have a pneumonia, when they -- many of them are HIV positive. I mean, we started at a time when we didn't have anti-retroviral substances yet.

DEAN BECKER: And, the -- it was taking off, the --

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: And it was exploding. The numbers were exploding. And, or they have hepatitis C, or all those things. And you can, you see them, you can intervene, you can -- when, when somebody gets psychotic because of their underlying psychoses, you can medicalize them with an anti-psychotic medication. You can give them out anti-depressants if they're depressed, and so when you can, to psychotherapy for certain situations, in order for that to find -- find a way to be with their problems in life.

So, there's a lot of things you can do in that accompanying --


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: -- treatment, and they're only possible because your patients come to you.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, a reminder, you're listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio. This interview was recorded in the office of Doctor Christoph Buerki in Bern, Switzerland. Got a lot smarter.

Now, in the US, we've, there's talk of legalizing marijuana at the federal level.


DEAN BECKER: But then there's this roadblock that's always put up, that, oh, we can't do that, we're party to the UN treaties and it wouldn't allow for, and it brings me to my next question to you. How did you get through, or work around, that situation?

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: You're asking me something that you should ask somebody from the federal government. I'm sorry, I'm not quite aware -- if I remember it right, the -- what's clear is that members of the United Nations Narcotics Control Bureau [sic: Board] have been here several times, have visited, and overall, were absolutely impressed, and -- impressed by the quality of the treatment, by the seriousity -- how it was done.

They didn't have to complain about anything with the -- in that regard. So, it is possible, within UN framework, to do something like that, there's no doubt.

DEAN BECKER: Hard to chastise you for success and keeping people alive, right?


DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, I was just going to say, Doctor Buerki, if you would, tell me what I'm leaving out. What should be let my listeners know about the success of your project?

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Basically, walk around Bern. Have a look around. You can -- there's no corner in Bern that you cannot walk around.

DEAN BECKER: The criminality is down.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Criminality is so much down. Drug related crime, delinquency, petty crimes, stealing, all those things, so much better nowadays than it was 25 years ago. That alone is a huge success for it.

And, on the individual level, you have many, many lives who are saved. You have --

DEAN BECKER: Prolonged.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Many people who are still dependent on drugs, somehow, some of them, for some of them it's a phase in their life, for some of them it's a phase that never ends, or for some of them, still it is a phase that ends their life. But, overall, many, many people have survived or even survived in good health, basically, unfortunate addiction.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, you know, I -- I grew up in the '60s. I tried heroin, I never did like downers, it just didn't appeal to me. Got into speed for a while, and, you know, and noticed that I was going to have a son, kind of caused that to end, you know, that affection for the speed.


DEAN BECKER: And, I think, in many cases, that tends to be the case, that a job or a wife or a kid, or some other happening to your life, tends to help many people, you know, walk away from the dangerous part of their habit, at least.


DEAN BECKER: Has that proven to be true for many of these addicts, or is -- or were you dealing more with the more serious, committed addicts, I guess was the way I --

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Basically, from epidemiological research we know that this is very true, that a lot of people use drugs, maybe even have an addiction over a certain time in their late teens, in their twenties, and once in their thirties, they start thinking about families, about career, and so on, and they stop.


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: It's the same with cigarettes, it's the same with excessive alcohol drinking. It's the same with drugs, generally. And, however in the heroin prescription program, as I lined out before --

DEAN BECKER: These were serious people.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: -- we have that, we have serious people, with serious addictions, with a lot of co-morbidities, of a psychological nature. So, they tend not to be that easy --


CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: -- a population that can sort of, at the blink of an eye, quit their habit and go on with their lives.

DEAN BECKER: Time's up, I'm done.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Yes. This is more something I do nowadays, I have a lot of, still a lot of patients in, with some sort of drug problem. For example, nowadays, young people, they tend to take more MDMA.

DEAN BECKER: Doctor Buerki, I want to thank you for your candid -- for being so candid with us, and for sharing your thoughts. The last question I want to present here is that, our president is talking about people who sell drugs, they need to be killed. That's what he's been saying, consistently, for the last few weeks, that their lives are just not worth prolonging another moment. We're not talking -- you were not talking about selling drugs, but it just seems such a, I don't know how to phrase this without trying to drag you into something political.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: Don't worry about it. I have my opinions. It's a war on drug -- it's a typical statement of a war on drug person. I mean, we as a society, we have tried war on drugs for countless years. I think the war on drug was formally declared by Richard Nixon, if I recall it right.

It has not proven to work. It has not proven to work. Let's look at the situation in the US. It's worse than ever, despite all the law enforcement efforts going into -- into combating drugs, into having that war on drugs, so, all we can say is, more of the same, or even inhumane approaches to that war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: He says we have to get tough, as if we haven't been.

CHRISTOPH BUERKI, MD: I can't understand it. It's just not understandable, how somebody can say something like that, and how, I mean, there is -- he's also supported by many religious people, in your country, I know. How can somebody support a person who says such crazy things? With such disrespect for life? It's incredible.

TOMMY CHONG: Hey, this is Tommy Chong for the Cultural Baggage show, telling everybody out there, don't let free speech go up in smoke, man.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): I'll be introducing legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level --

DEAN BECKER: This is Chuck Schumer.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: -- from one end of the country to the other. The legislation is long overdue. I've seen too many people's lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail, much too long. It affects communities of color disproportionately and unfairly. And, ultimately, it's the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?

We allow the states to decide, so each state can decide on their own, but there'll be no federal agents or anything like that, except, if a state that has legalized marijuana, say Colorado, is shipping marijuana to, say, Illinois, which has not. The federal government can still try to stop the shipments to the state where it's not legal.

INTERVIEWER: Why have you changed your mind on this issue?

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: Well, number one, I studied the issue, and we've now had some evidence. State of Washington, other states, where it has done lots of good and no harm. Justice Brandeis said, let the states be laboratories. Now we've had a few states, we've had a few laboratories. The experiment's been a success. Let's nationalize it.

INTERVIEWER: Is it a conscience issue for you?

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: It's conscience. It's also practical.

DEAN BECKER: All right, that was Senator Chuck Schumer, talking about his bill to basically decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. That seems like a really good idea to me. I hope you guys out there will get in touch with your local officials as well. Please visit our website, nearly seven thousand radio programs at DrugTruth.net.

And once again, I remind you, that because of prohibition you don't know what is in that bag, and I urge you to please, be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge an abyss.