Last week Irina Teplinskaya, drug user from Kaliningrad (Russia), made a complaint against Russia to Mr. Anand Grover – UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. She complied that Russia doesn’t provide proper treatment to drug users. Below you can read Irina’s life story.
I started to use drugs when I was 14, and now I am 44. I grew up in an elite family: my grandfather was a Navy commander in the Baltic Fleet, my grandmother was director of the "Tourist" hotel, and my parents were on Kamchatka earning crazy money for those times. I was growing up as a talented and gifted girl: excellent marks, a music school, Russia’s national youth athletics team, "Artek", "Orlenok" [children’s summer camps in Crimea and on the Caucasian beach of the Black sea, very prestigious during the Soviet period- Note from translator], my grandfather was arranging for my admission to MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the most prestigious higher school in the Soviet Union - Note from translator]. My friends were older than me, and I found being with peers uninteresting. All of them studied at universities, naval schools, all had big-shot parents, and they injected. Seeing them using drugs, I thought it was prestigious, and was a sort of indicator of my belonging to gilded youth... In 1981 I tried ampouled morphine for the first time: it was available at pharmacies, on a simple prescription for cancer patients, and it was not difficult to forge a prescription – I liked it at once. A bit later came the poppy. By the time I finished school I had been injecting for three years, but I managed to finish school with excellent marks. However, when I was in the 10th form my mum started suspecting I was injecting, pulled up my sleeve and saw that my entire arm was covered in tracks. Before the final examinations she put me in a ‘nut hospital’ for two months to get me off withdrawals, because in 1984 there was no ‘narcology’ [Russian term for drug treatment or drug treatment clinic –Note from translator] as yet. They did get me off withdrawals, but they butchered my psyche for ever: at that time the treatment of drug addicts was not any different from the treatment of raving madness - the same techniques and medications: cyclodol, haloperidol, aminasine, insulin comas and sulfasine at five sites with immobilization in bed. We were kept together with other patients - epileptics, schizophrenics, paranoiacs - I have retained indelible impressions about that treatment throughout my life. After discharge, I got admitted to university, department of economics, and continued to be on drugs. For five years my relatives kept trying to treat me, jumping, as the last straw, at all the know-how in the drug treatment of the 1990s. But I would invariably get back on drugs, I was craving, and already at that time I felt uncomfortable without them. Of all detoxes of that time I liked best the ‘morphine ladder’ in 1987: a patient was prescribed a dose of morphine for removing withdrawals in poppy dosage terms. Every day the dose was reduced by 1 ampoule until it came to naught: withdrawal proceeded painlessly, but you wanted to inject even more because you were constantly feeling ‘nedogon’ [not having had enough - Note from translator] throughout the detox. However, they quickly prohibited this method recognising it as ineffective, but it was at least humane for those who really wanted to give up - for some reason I did not want to, but in those years I did not think why: I liked the state of euphoria, the condition of tranquility, "rose-coloured glasses" and universal love. During summer vacations I would be put up into ‘narcology’ hospital No. 17 in Moscow, and they even took me to Bishkek to Nazaraliev after whom I held out for 4 months – all this was done «voluntarily-compulsorily», without taking into account my wants and needs. My grandpa kept getting me off the rap when coppers arrested me with poppy, but after my fourth year at university he got fed up and said, ‘Now you do some time in jail, love, enough is enough!’ By way of “prevention”, in 1989 I was sentenced to a year and half for forging prescriptions (before that I had a year and a half on parole for 10 rotten poppy heads on the balcony which I had forgotten all about). In the same 1989 I had Hep C for the first time, which I had contracted through a needle.
There is a settlement in Arkhangelsk region, Puksa-Lake; in the 1990s there was a female ‘zone’ [slang for prison camp - Note from translator] there, which had been built during Stalin’s time for the wives of the purged, and by and large nothing had changed there by the time I arrived. Taiga and bogs around, among which the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ was stretching’. April, 40 degrees below zero, snow as high as your chin. At 8 in the morning the gate was opened, and all of the crowd of women would be driven out of the ‘zone’ to work. Men out in the taiga were felling timber, and rail cars with ship timber would come by a narrow-gauge railway, and we had to unload them: four women would get on a car, throw off those pine logs, and the others would saw them up and load them on carts. A lot got crippled, every day a log would hurt someone. The second squad was laying a narrow-gauge railway further into the tundra: specifically "female" work it was. I had to cut one bitch with a knife: she was a convict, squad leader, enjoyed big power with administration, and she liked me very much because I looked like a boy. She offered me to sleep with her and get released from work till the end of my term in exchange. But I did not like her, and I refused. She started to press me through the coppers. There were still punishments for misconduct then such as denial of parcels or buying foodstuffs at the stall or seeing visitors: for having done something trifling, many a prisoner spent dozens of years on ‘balanda’ [prison soup - Note from translator], and I had already been deprived of everything what one could be deprived of for the rest of one’s life rather than just half a year - and all this within a week of my stay in the ‘zone’!! Finally, I was sent to the punishment cell for 15 days, and that mama also threatened me – kind of, if you do not sleep with me, you’ll rot in there till the end of your term. I understood I had little choice: I am either in bed with her or in the noose, or do away with her! I took a knife and put it into her throat - made her an invalid till the end of her life. And then the guards came in running and, feeling bitter or powerless before the “system”, I started beating them up with whatever there was at hand, a stool, a poker. They put me up in a heightened security barrack where the punishment cell for misconduct was located. For my attack at them, the coppers decided to take a revenge on me: all troublemakers were amnestied to the camp, and I was left alone in the barrack, which they stopped heating. They cut off the light, removed the glass from the window frame, and drew polyethylene over the window: it was minus forty, whether outside or in my cell. During the day they would put a big guard dog in, and you would sit without stirring, afraid of even breathing. I was given a meal every other day then, and I spent three months like this, and then my mum was let know: or, rather, I got a chance to write to her. She had started worrying, why I was silent and was not answering her letters, and nobody cared to tell her whether I was alive or dead. Mum hired a "golden" lawyer in Moscow right away - money permitting. And he proved that I had been forced to commit a new crime because I had no choice: either kill myself or defend my dignity. I was in for 8 to 15 years, but thanks to the lawyer’s efforts, I was given another 4.5 years only. Instead of one and a half years as my grandfather had planned for preventive care, I sat six years.
I was set free in 1995 and one month later I got back on the needle. Already then poppy was widely injected, HIV was on the rampage across the city, but I did have time to catch it because in 5 months I was jailed again. In fact, I tried, to get treated at our ‘narcology’ (hemosorption, plasmapheresis), but I got as far as just lowering the dose. Already then gypsies started to sell drugs at their ‘town’ under the coppers ‘umbrella’, whom they paid ‘dosh’. The coppers needed to show good clear-up rates, and they were creating the appearance of struggle against drug business. They would call the gypsies in advance to say they needed a "dealing" episode that day, and the gypsies would set up someone for them. I was taken up at the ‘gipsy town’ when buying 2 glasses of poppy straw. At that time, the article on acquisition and possession of drugs had not yet been repealed, and I got 3 years with compulsory drug treatment. Treatment with sulfasine and haloperidol was given during the first 2 months upon arrival at the drug user ‘zone’ - there was then such an all-Union female prison camp in Chuvashiya where female addicts from across the country did their term with compulsory treatment.
After that I did one year for an empty syringe – that was ridiculous! I was on my way from the ‘gipsy town’ on 29 December, a syringe and a spoon washed clean after a jab in my pocket (heroin was already in town, in 2000). Coppers stopped me and searched me – they did not find anything but the syringe and the spoon. No money, too, nothing to take. So they let me go. I am walking on. Suddenly they come back, put me in their van and take me to the nick. They send the syringe and the spoon for examination, and there are trace residues on them – 0.00000026 g of heroin. So they say to me, “We are short of one case before the New Year to tick it off as achieved, and we do not want to run around now trying catch someone else. And you can be locked up right away considering your previous convictions and recidivism”
I walked out in 2001, and in a few months I got another term, 3 years. Coppers just cheekily put 2 checks of heroin into my pocket in the gipsy camp because I refused to pay them the camp "entry-exit" charge: I just did not have an extra hundred roubles at the moment, or I would have paid, as usual.
The last time, in 2005, it was the same story. I came to the gipsy town at night in a taxi, and while I was trying to make a jab by the light of a cigarette lighter (there was no light there), the taxi driver went off. Gypsies always kept a fire burning near the ‘points’ for people to see where they were dealing. So I sat down at a fire, thinking, somebody of the prostitutes will make some money and come here to buy drugs, and I will join them in their cab. While I was sitting there, coppers came. I am sitting quietly, all gowed up, nothing on me at all, not even a syringe – learned the lesson. They put me in the van and take me to the nick. I wake up in the morning and think, now they’ll do the records and let me go, the usual thing. Instead they took me for identification, there were two women looking like alcoholics, accordingly dressed. And I was wearing drug user gear: jeans, a t-shirt, sneakers – it was immediately clear from the appearances who of us was a drug user. Some copper s’ fosterling came in and pointed at me is if he had bought heroin from me. It happened to be enough to get 3.5 years! I tried to write an appeal on violation of investigative procedures: I had not had any marked money on me, nor any stuff; no handwipe had been taken, and the field officers were giving confusing evidence on the arrest. But I was faced with the fact – if I did not calm down, I’d get 8 years instead of three taking into account my previous convictions – they would believe them, not me.
In the same year 2000 I got ill with HIV. Again, all started at the gipsy town, when gypsies stopped selling "straw" – they thought it more profitable for them to sell ready-made dope. Some would come with a new syringe, others with a used one –the gypsies did not care which one to use to draw from a common pot, just pay! As a result, by 1998 Kaliningrad had come to rank first in Russia in terms of HIV prevalence. I learnt my diagnosis at the low-threshold centre in Kopernik street. It was the only place in the city where they distributed disposable syringes; you could have tea there, or just get warm when in agonies, or watch TV. And at the same time get tested and see a gynecologist - all anonymous and free. This place was hugely popular with drug addicts and prostitutes - it was soon closed though because volunteers who exchanged syringes began to sell heroin. We have not had any other low-threshold centre in the city, nor have there been syringe exchange programmes.
At first, we were divided in the ‘zone’ by diagnosis, HIV+ were kept separately from healthy ones - the prison wing where the HIV-positives were kept was called ‘HIV-planet’. But it did not last long - an order was issued to keep HIV+ in prisons like all others. At the local female ‘zone’ in Kolosovka we were kept in squads together with healthy prisoners, there were no distinctions in the security regime or physical burden whatsoever. There was a tiny difference in food: we were given for breakfast 20 g of butter and an egg 3 times a week, and a symbolic piece of chicken was added to common lunch. In fact, the "diagnosis", of course, was not disclosed by either staff or medical workers but we had our own section in the dining hall: all would sit in their squads, each squad had its own tables, and all of us from different squad would sit at separate tables, and it was clear that it was the "diagnosis". I began to push it with coppers that they discriminated against us with this separate section, "unintentionally" disclosing the "diagnosis": the Criminal Procedures Code says nothing about division by disease - only by squad. I started to conspicuously sit down with my squad: it was not a violation of the Criminal Procedures Code, and the coppers, led by the head of the educational department, were going mad because three times a day they had to look fools in the eyes of the entire zone’. They started getting at me for nothing, and I had to spend 15 days in the punishment cell, but after my release from it nobody touched me at the dining hall, and other HIV+ also started to sit down with their squads if they wanted to.
Punishment cells are all alike in all ‘zones’: for half a month you eat and sleep in a toilet. The cell is 1.5 by 2 m, a bunk fastened to the wall from 5am to 9pm, a shit hole, a metallic table and a stool screwed up to the floor, and concrete all around. It was not so easy to write complaints, they would rarely leave the ‘zone’. Once a month, a supervising public prosecutor would come. You would get an appointment but before you see him, you would be called up by all chiefs of departments one after the other - operational, educational, security – to find out what it was you wanted to see him about. They would try, without leaving it to the prosecutor, to resolve all issues themselves: sort of, if the problem is solvable why make it worse and wash dirty linen in public. My questions would not normally be resolvable, so all kinds of intimidation would be used. All visits to the prosecutor would end up in about the same: the more the prosecutor ‘had’ the coppers, the more we suffered! I knew what it could end up with, but my self-respect and human dignity were more precious to me! Why on earth should I cave in to coppers most of whom are losers who have come into the "system" to vent their complexes on us and to feel themselves humans amid at least those who are absolutely powerless?!? I knew I was right according to both all existing legal acts and ethical principles. All the more so that there was nobody for me out there to be in a hurry to go back to, and nowhere to go: in 2000 I lost residence registration and housing because my mother got me struck off the residence register by cheating and did not let me in home.
It so happened that when I was in prison my father died: my mother asked me to have my name removed from the residence register so that she could exchange flats. I did, but when I was set free, my mother refused to re-register me. She told me I had got them throughout my life, with drugs, stealing, and now HIV: and the sister is growing up, no need to spoil her life. To make it worse, the local TV showed me every day for a whole month: me sitting at a bus stop being so gowed up that I did not see I was being recorded, point-blank. And a crawler, ‘Do not use drugs!’ . I did not even know my rights at that time, that I could sue the TV company for violating my right to privacy. Of course, my mum saw it, our neighbours, relatives’ friends – since then they would not let me step over their thresholds. Mother would bring out and give me in the park near our house 200 roubles a week and some food, as if I were the worst beggar. I had to steal regularly to have something to inject on and live on. I stole everything - phones, purses, gold from drunken men. My dose was huge, nearly 2 g a day; I would inject half a gram at once, I was stealing day on day, sometimes did not get any sleep for weeks: I would doze off for a couple of hours on steps in a stairway and back to searching for money. I had terrible agonies, and I would inject with Dimedrol, Phenazepam and Reladorm because heroin alone did not hold any longer. I won’t lie that I stole millions each day: sometimes it was three thousand bucks a day, and sometimes a thousand roubles, which was hardly enough to keep me from dying. When I had a lot of heroin in my pocket, I would go to my friends/ addicts to spend the night for a dose, when I had it for myself only, then it was on steps in a stairway. In February 2005 I fell ill with pleurisy because of sleeping rough since my immunity was already low, and HIV-positives are predisposed to pulmonary diseases. I was feeling very bad, labored for breath, was hardly able to walk, kept going just on heroin, but I was unable to steal in such condition. I had to go to the infectious hospital, department for the HIV-infected: I spent a day there and ran away, because I was in such agonies that I did not care about treatment. It is true, though, that withdrawal from heroin is not as bad as from poppy, they are day and night; heroin causes greater psychological dependence. Withdrawal begins with fever and shivering; you are now hot, now cold, wet all over, cold sweat. Vomiting, diarrhea, you keep dashing to the toilet, only you do not know what to do first – either throw up or throw yourself on the bowl. All your body gets twisted, you tie yourself in a knot to find the least painful position for your body, insomnia for a few months. And there is only one thought in your head: where do I get the money. In this condition, people are capable of doing anything; I did very brash things: you cannot control yourself, you become a zombie, a slave of your withdrawals – away with pleurisy treatment! Not a single hospital provides drug treatment in our city apart from the inpatient department of the ‘narcology’ clinic; they seem to believe, probably, that it’s personal business and personal choice: you either treat the pleurisy or inject, and nobody cares that you are in agonies.
It seems to me, this is associated with the thinking stereotype that has formed in society, that addicts are scum, no need to spend public and taxpayers’ money on them, the sooner they all die, the better. Doctors, probably, think that we have made our choice: normal people would not use drugs, they would get treated. Since I am a drug addict, what difference does it make, whether I die of pleurisy or overdose in the gutter. Even the department at our infectious hospital where HIV+ lie is just awful: the plaster is likely to fall on your head, the linoleum gets rolled up, if you cannot walk properly and do not lift your feet, you could bust your head. In a prison camp, the conditions are much more decent: and there you can see at once that nobody cares how HIVed addicts are going to die.
So I stayed one day, stole a mobile phone and left the hospital – I was in intolerable agonies, was unable to think! And I did not get my pleurisy cured, endured it on feet, on heroin. And half a year later, when I got jailed, I started feeling bad: weakness, sweating, breathless, unable to walk. Later I understood it was the beginning of tuberculosis because my condition would invariably worsen in autumn and in spring, and so I suffered for a year. When I called at the medical unit for help, they would mock me: movement is life! Once during morning gymnastics I fainted, they carried me off to the medical unit, I stayed there in bed till lunch, and they sent me off back to the squad. X-raying showed shadows, and the physicians attributed it to a relapse of pleurisy, injected antibiotics for pneumonia although despite the fact that they belong to an absolutely different series, and in case of tuberculosis the condition just gets worse. Within a year I was treated against pneumonia twice while TB was progressing rapidly in me.
In the autumn of 2006 I heard our Minister of Health speaking on the radio: she said that our AIDS-centre got ARV medication for 210 patients and only 70 had come, so there were medications but no treatment seekers. At that time, they did CD-4 tests once every six months, and did not perform tests for viral load at all. When my immune system dropped to a hundred and forty units, I beat the alarm - give me this therapy! I mentioned the minister’s speech, my civil rights: in this case, the right to health and to medical care. They answered me: you should have thought about that out there – get released and treated, instead of injecting! I wrote a letter to the Minister of Health and described the situation, mentioning her appearance on the radio. Of course, my letter did not go anywhere. I sent a second one through a staff officer - it went off but there was no answer to it for a long time, and I was getting worse and worse. I had to cut my veins, and they locked me up in the punishment cell for 15 days for self-injury. I demanded that they call the public prosecution supervisor responsible for due course of law at prisons, but he was not called in: and my temperature was up to 40, all days I was down on the cement floor, doubled up, shaking. Coppers would come in and kick me – get up, the rules prohibit lying in the punishment cell during the day! Even the medical worker did not come to me to treat my veins in spite of the fact that I had HIV, and the arm could get inflamed in insanitary conditions, they did not measure my temperature despite the fact that I asked them for help. According to the law, with a temperature over 37 I should have been transferred from the punishment cell to the medical unit – nothing of the sort! I had to go on hunger strike, with slit veins, fever and low immunity. I stayed on hunger-strike for ten days until they called the public prosecutor. They could force feed me through a tube in the event of a life threatening condition, but they expected me to crack: if I started to eat, that would mean recognizing I was not right. Only after the public prosecutor arrived and after I was carried away from the punishment cell to the medical unit because I was unable to walk myself and did not eat anything, did the situation change: an infectionist from the regional AIDS centre came and prescribed therapy to me and to another six girls based on indications. But the therapy did not help me that much at that point because I had left behind my remaining health in the prison cell. My neck was swollen, my lymph nodes enlarged, I was hardly able to walk, did not eat nor sleep – I understood I was dying. They had to call a team of doctors for consultation from the Department of the Federal Prison Service - these looked at my neck, at the X-rays and said in my presence, ‘Well, she is as good as dead!! Will last out 2 months at most, lung necrosis!’ . After that I was promptly taken away to a TB ‘zone’, already in an absolutely bad condition. But knowing my ability to stand up for my rights, the administration sent me to the ‘sick zone’ with documents ready for aktirovka (release on medical grounds). No sooner had I arrived than the doctor came the next day; I was unable to walk any longer, stayed in bed, too weak, and the girls would carry me to the toilet. He asked me to behave, say nothing to anyone and not stir anything among the girls - in a week I’d be free. They did not make any single test, did not do any X-raying, just released me a year and 7 months earlier so that the administration of the female ‘zone’ would not suffer for reducing me to such condition: they had not examined me for TB properly, detecting it when the lungs started to decay. Moreover, they had not prescribed ARV in time, had not provided medical care in the punishment cell, and thus not only had they violated my rights but also had left me in danger by having done serious harm to my health, nearly taking away my life.
At the prison hospital they started to give to me TB drugs in addition to ARV medication: they treated me all right, probably because I had come with a "good" reputation and nobody wanted to mess with me for the 2 weeks. When I came to the prison hospital, they were already providing ARV there, but the girls would not drink it for some reason, throwing it down the drain together with TB medications: they had heard a lot of crap that this therapy shortens your life and even tried to convince me to stop taking all pills. In reality nobody was able to provide me with any example, but all had heard something and knew something, that someone had died of it, and no education had been done on this.
Getting drugs into a ‘zone’ was no problem, too. In male ‘zones’, the staff themselves would bring dope for money; in female ‘zones’ it is a bit more difficult because coppers are afraid of dealing with women because they are loose with their tongue: one would brag foolishly that she had had a jab that day, someone other would be jealous and narc her out for not sharing it with her. But anyway, husbands or relatives sneak it in when visiting. Half of our “zone” were gypsies, doing term for selling heroin, all acquaintances were from the gipsy town: you make a deal with them, and it’s brought to them. If desired, you could get hooked on the "system" [systemic use – Note from translator]: People shared with me when they got it from visitors, but I tried to use less frequently. But if you set your mind on it, it is no problem: particularly if you have someone out of prison who could supply heroin to you in big quantities.
In male colonies, they practice ‘throws’ over the security fence: people would drive up close, having made a phone call, throw it over and that’s it. In fact, it is no more difficult than out there, only delivery takes a bit longer. It may be more difficult with syringes; it could sneaked in in the vagina from the visiting room as a tampax, or a member of staff could bring in a couple of syringes for money. These are cherished, they are hidden in a safe place. Of course, a syringe would then be shared by a crowd of people, no one has her own syringe. People are glad if they are offered a jab, and it does not make a difference whoever’s syringe it is and whatever disease they may have. Normally five or six prisoners inject from one parcel, but they may then share their syringe with another group who may have gotten heroin too. Good things are too good to be true there…
So they took me from the ‘zone’ to the TB clinic; my mother did not want to take me home even before my death. It was spring, 2007, April, all was in blossom – I was so sorry to be dying. I do not know what miracle happened then but in a couple of weeks I started getting better, and a month later I got hired to work for the hospital as yard keeper because nobody was helping me, and I had to have something to live on. I would get up at five in the morning, take ARV, sweep all the yard and remove the garbage. Then I would come back by 9am to have breakfast, take TB pills, then I would go back again to trim some bushes; I took pleasure in working. Having been on the brink of the grave, you come to re-appreciate life …. Then I was promoted from yard keeper to nursing aid, and worked as such for 2 years. I had already recovered and managed to get social housing, but I kept working - I got used to both patients and clinicians who had put me back on my feet. It was hard to work as nursing aid; every day we would take corpses out, the death rate was very high. Ten bed patients in the ward, all needing to be washed, diapers to be changed. At first I worked at the female ward, but after Taya Suslova’s death I joined HIV-activism, was trained as «peer counsellor », and moved to work as nursing aid to the ward for HIV + with active TB. There I also advised them on adherence to ARV and did follow-up – I was working in two projects for the AIDS centre. But two years later I relapsed on heroin – I failed to stand burying a friend every week, it was very hard. In fact, I had allowed myself some dope from time to time as I was earning quite a bit; I do not like alcohol, and also I had to occasionally bring dope to terminal patients and inject with them. But I would not go back on the ‘system’ and controlled myself; I did not want to go back to prison, but now I was hooked like hell. I quit the job, the projects, lost everything that I had acquired by back-breaking toil. I started visiting the girls on the streets: I’d been in prison with some of them; others had been clients in my projects. They would give me a treat, help me buy heroin when I received my disability pension; this went on for 3 months. I do not know what this would have ended up with, prison or death if I had not been out in the street. In the social hostel where I live, the rules are very strict: you cannot stay in if drunk or high, you are expelled if you do not work. I spent 3 days out on the streets, it was September 2009; I recalled all my previous life, which I had fallen out of, and understood it was the end: without housing, without means. I did not want to go back to the ‘zone’, not appropriate for my age, and the relationships with administration were awful: I had created so many problems for them, pushing for my rights – they would do me in at once. And by some miracle I found power in me to stop: I went to the TB clinic and got through the agonies on alcohol and sleeping pills. I did not go to the ‘narcology’ because I was already off the register after the expiry of the period of limitation, my patient record was in the archive. If I had come to the ‘narcology’, they would have again put me on the register as active, and I could not afford to get treated anonymously and pay. It is difficult for me find a decent job because of previous convictions, as security services would vet me by their database and if they found out I am on the register, then I’d be in the «black list» for ever. Three months later I returned, I was again given accommodation because the administration in of the hostel proved to be remarkably humane. Now I am trying to control my drug use and not inject frequently for several days on end to avoid withdrawal, but I always want to inject. When I do not inject for a long time, I am tormented by depression, mood swings, nervous breakdowns; I try to suppress them with alcohol but this only makes things worse. When under the effect of alcohol, I get aggressive because my brain is subconsciously expecting something absolutely different, opioid euphoria; therefore, having had a drink, I would always try to have an injection to get rid of that "alien" condition and quickly get back to the usual, heroin one. If I had a choice to use or not to use drugs, provided they are legal and there is no need to engage in crime to find money for a dose, frankly, I would use till the end of my life because in this condition only do I feel fully able and comfortable.