Last week, France’s health minister Marisol Touraine opened the door to normalisation of illegal drug consumption in controlled, clinical settings.

This is the same minister who wants plain packaging for cigarettes and says that alcohol, including French wine, is unsafe at any level.

A six-year trial (!) of taxpayer-funded salles de shoot (or, as Touraine and her allies prefer, salles de consommation) could soon open up anywhere in France. These might be clinics or separate hospital units. Clinicians would attend to the addicts, e.g. supplying clean needles. Police presence would be increased in the districts where the shooting galleries would open.

The proposal has resulted in a huge debate of those for and against. A number of doctors think it is a good idea and would protect addicts from infection and overdose.

On the other hand, opponents are already posting local petitions in their towns and cities against such places. A website and Facebook page are also in place: ‘Non aux salles de shoot‘.

Opponents rightly ask the following questions:

1/ In a time when the French are told the national health budget must be reined in, why then devote taxpayers’ money and added public health — and police — resources for shooting galleries?

2/ Why normalise (débanalise) illegal drugs when campaigns and laws restricting smoking — including e-cigarettes — and alcohol are such a huge part of public health policy?

3/ Is it right that children should see groups of addicts going into these places?

4/ Will there be an increase in violence in areas where shooting galleries exist? Will these neighbourhoods become no-go areas?

RMC’s current affairs host Eric Brunet said he didn’t know how to explain to his children that the French government seems to cater to illegal drugs, yet considers tobacco and French wine to be taboo.

A lady from Geneva (Switzerland) rang in to Brunet’s show on Friday, October 17, say that she was campaigning for that city’s shooting gallery to close. The level of crime and violence had dramatically increased since it had opened several years ago. Brunet pointed out that Sweden had closed all of its galleries for these very reasons.

The UK had similar clinics and, if I remember rightly, actually dispensed the drugs there rather than allowing users to bring in their own. These patients were sent their by their general practitioners (family doctors). However, by the early 1970s, these, too, had closed. The number of patients had been quite small until the late 1960s, when, suddenly, many more — including unregistered walk-ins — were coming in for a fix. The programme became unmanageable and had to end.

One prominent French physician and medical school professor, Jean Constantin, opposes Touraine’s shooting galleries. He prefers improving the existing methods of prevention and treatment, especially as more young French people are experimenting with illegal drugs.

Constantin asks how addicts will be able to bring in their own drugs when their safety cannot be assured. He wonders if any doctor would be willing to supervise such a situation. He adds:

Furthermore, it has been proven that those using these rooms and leaving with a sufficient heroin dose in their bloodstream are not dissuaded from taking more in the street. 

And what happens if an addict dies either in one of these shooting galleries or soon afterward? Does his (or her) family sue the state? Then what?

In any event, this gives evidence to my theory that the ultimate aim of Tobacco Control and Alcohol Control — and politicians who support them — is the normalisation and increased use of illegal drugs so that we become compliant, manageable addicts who can no longer think for ourselves.

In closing, Marisol Touraine presents herself as a minister concerned about the nation’s well being, yet, her son is serving a three-year prison term for having extorted a neighbour lady.

Mme Touraine is a fine one to be dictating to others how they should live their lives.

Bible readingContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 18:31-34

Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.


Jesus had been telling His Apostles that His death was imminent. Luke 17 records Him saying:

25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Luke 9 contains His second fortelling of suffering and death:

44“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

However, the Apostles did not understand what He was saying. Luke 9 says that they were too afraid to ask Him for an explanation.

Today’s reading — His third fortelling of His own death — has its parallel in Mark 10:32-34.

In today’s passage, Jesus tells them that Scripture will be fulfilled (verse 31). The King James Version has more impact; the word ‘behold’ is used instead of ‘see’. ‘Behold’ is an emphatic word by which Jesus wanted to impress upon the Apostles that the end of His ministry was near. We might say today, ‘Look here’ or ‘See here’ to imply that the listener should pay close attention.

Jesus was making it clear what would occur (verses 32, 33). He also stated that He would rise from the dead on the third day.

Once again, the Apostles understood none of it (verse 34). This is because the Jewish understanding was that the Messiah would vanquish their enemies. Their understanding was a temporal, not a spiritual, one.

The Jews ignored biblical prophecies that the Messiah would suffer and die at the hands of men. Matthew Henry explains with a warning for us (emphases in bold mine):

… they had read the Old Testament many a time, but they could never see any thing in it that would be accomplished in the disgrace and death of this Messiah. They were so intent upon those prophecies that spoke of his glory that they overlooked those that spoke of his sufferings, which the scribes and doctors of the law should have directed them to take notice of, and should have brought into their creeds and catechisms, as well as the other but they did not suit their scheme, and therefore were laid aside. Note, Therefore it is that people run into mistakes, because they read their Bibles by the halves, and are as partial in the prophets as they are in the law. They are only for the smooth things, Isaiah 30:10.

We make the same mistakes today, especially by speaking of an all-embracing Jesus — as if He never warned us that certain sins would condemn us eternally if we do not repent in this life.

As for the state of the Church, Henry adds:

Thus now we are too apt, in reading the prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled, to have our expectations raised of the glorious state of the church in the latter days. But we overlook its wilderness sackcloth state, and are willing to fancy that is over, and nothing is reserved for us but the halcyon days and then, when tribulation and persecution arise, we do not understand it, neither know we the things that are done, though we are told as plainly as can be that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.

Henry lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. His statement was true in his time and still true in ours.

Returning to Jesus’s imminent suffering and crucifixion, it is essential to bear in mind two things: first, He knew all along what would happen to Him and, secondly, the Old Testament points to this in several places.

John MacArthur gives us some of the Old Testament prophecies and references to the Messiah’s suffering. These include Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53:

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

Isaiah 53

Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men;
    a man of sorrows,[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

MacArthur describes in detail what our Lord truly suffered. Excerpts of his sermon follow:

the first thing we could look at in considering the range of His suffering would be disloyalty. He was betrayed. He was betrayed at the most intimate level. He was betrayed by one of His own in whom He had invested His life.

The second category that we could even consider is the suffering of rejection. Certainly betrayal is included in rejection, but it’s the more overt kind of thing that I’m talking about. He was, according to Mark 10:33, delivered to the chief priests and scribes. And they constituted the Sanhedrin, the court of Israel, and they basically were the ones who made the decision for the nation and their decision was to reject Jesus. They put Him on trial. They trumped up false charges.

There’s a third component, I think, in the agony that bursts out in the garden and that’s humiliation … It all led to that. I think when He got to the garden it was the disloyalty, the rejection, the humiliation that He was suffering as the exalted second member of the Trinity that was more than His human body could bear, and that’s why He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. That’s why He agonized in the garden. And that’s why He said, “Father, if there’s any way that this can pass from Me, please let it.” Already the suffering was beyond comprehension. But the humiliation went beyond that and I think you would have to put in the category of humiliation verse 32, that He will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon and scourged. Scourged, maybe, we’ll leave out. Mocked, mistreated, spit upon, designed purposely to humiliate, purposely to belittle, demean.

That leads to a fifth feature in the proportion of His sufferings, let’s just call it injury … Scourged and ultimately killed. His scourging we’re familiar with because we understand the history of scourging. We know what it was. They made a whip with many thongs, some say three, some say as many as seven, some say more than that. At the end of those thongs were bits of glass, bone, rock, even metal used to lacerate, rip and tear and shred down to the veins, the internal organs. Psalm 22 describes this. Isaiah 53 describes this. Even crucifixion is described in Zechariah 12:10, the one who will be pierced. It was a common Jewish punishment. They were to give 40 lashes. They gave 39 because they didn’t want to overstep the law, so they gave three sets of 13 moving around the body the person hanging, suspended at a pole, so that his body was taut. And the lashes were given by two men so that they weren’t diminished in ferocity and strength until his entrails and his organs would appear. Many people died. Little wonder that Simon had to carry His cross.

A believer will be ever mindful of those facts.

However, as we know, there are many who discount our Lord’s intense, immense suffering: those who deny His resurrection or say He was unsure He would die.

MacArthur tells us that this falsehood began during the German Enlightenment:

One of the heroes of the German critics and liberal scholarship … said, “We simply do not know what Jesus thought about His death.” Well we do not know if we don’t believe the Bible. He said, “Possibly He broke down completely in His faith, His faith being shattered, He was left to cry out with a loud moan and die.” That’s the liberal line and it’s generated children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a liberal scholarship that keeps espousing. Another one of the Germans, Kaspar(??) said, “He knew He might die, He knew because of the intense opposition He generated that He could end up with the same bloody fate as His friend, John the Baptist, but He certainly wouldn’t have known any specifics.” Well how did he know this? Well this passage is a post-Easter gloss…this is a post-resurrection edition. It is not historical, it was never spoken by Jesus because that would confirm His deity and we can’t let that happen. And so by their own self-deception, they damn themselves.

Jesus knew every single element about the conspiracy, every element carried out by Jews and Gentiles. He knew every feature of His cross and resurrection. They were all precisely in the plan from eternity past.

The Bible — in both the Old and New Testaments — tells us all we need to know about our Lord’s life and death. May we read it thoroughly and, with God’s grace, understand and believe what it says.

Next time: Luke 18:35-43

Erik Vance is an American scientific journalist who writes about sustainable markets for fish and seafood.

His assignments occasionally take him to northern Mexico, along the drug supply route to California.

Vance wrote for Slate about his encounter with Mexican fishermen who have no choice but to help drug cartels. The article is called ‘Cocaine Is Evil’, and he compared cocaine purchase to ‘donating to the Nazi Party’.

The hundreds of comments in response reveal that cocaine users were none too happy with the comparison. As is the fashion today, they clamoured for legalisation. I wonder. Too few dissenting voices pointed out that cocaine is equally illegal in Mexico. Also, one American who lives in a state where marijuana is legal said that everyone he knows still goes to their dealers — because the product is cheaper (no tax)!

Anyway, what Vance discovered in and around Sonora, Mexico, horrified him (emphases mine):

I remember one interview in particular in which a fisherman told us about his relative who occasionally ran drugs for the cartels in between seasons. In this area, it’s not blood in, blood out. Cartels have porous edges, where people drop in when they need the money and get out as fast as possible. And we are not talking about characters from Breaking Bad here—these are poor fishermen with no other choice. And mostly they hate it.

Fishermen are great mules because they know the waters and they don’t draw attention. And if you have to chuck your haul overboard to avoid the military, other fishermen can dive to retrieve it.

Vance says the fisherman said that his relative had a long, possibly stormy, journey to his destination. Once he arrived:

and he met the men who would take the cargo across the border, they put a bullet in his head and tossed him overboard to feed the fish he should have been catching. It’s cheaper to kill the mule than to pay him.

That story made Vance think about his upper middle class friends who think nothing of doing a line of coke or, when on the end of a credit card or house key, a pile of it, which is called a ‘bump':

It’s a marvel of the English language that something so horrible, so corrosive can have such a cute little name. I wonder what that fisherman would have said to that innocuous little word. “Glad I could help brighten the party,” maybe?

Not that the fisherman here are wholly innocent—many of them do meth and coke to stay awake on the water, and some have become addicted. But we all know who drives the drug trade. It’s us. At our hip little parties, our New Year’s Eve celebrations, our secret back rooms, and on the counters of people from well-off families who are destined for rehab.

He cites the number of drug-related deaths linked to coke:

Around 60,000 were executed as witches during 150 years at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. Mexico alone has seen perhaps twice that many deaths during its seven-year drug war. From 1990 to 2010, Colombia had some 450,000 homicides, overwhelmingly due to coke. Add all the rest of Latin America (counting all the military actions that were driven by efforts to control trafficking routes as much as by politics), the U.S. share (15,000 per year on the high side, counting all kinds of drugs and overdoses and such). Now add an estimate of all the uncounted murders and overdoses and track that carnage back to the 1960s when the modern drug war began. The number starts to be in the league of the atrocities of Nazi Germany or American slavery.  

He adds:

the magnitude and gruesomeness of the atrocities committed to acquire and maintain drug trade routes to the United States actually are comparable. Decapitations and burning people alive are just the start. Chainsaws, belt sanders, acid—these things are used very creatively by cartel torturers. They disembowel bloggers and sew faces to soccer balls. Children are forced to work as assassins, people are forced to rape strangers at gunpoint, and lines of victims are killed one at a time with a single hammer. Many of those people disappear into unmarked graves. If their bodies are ever found, they are described in the media with antiseptic words like “mutilated.”

He concludes:

So yes, I say that paying for coke is equivalent to donating to the Nazi party. The unspoken thing here is that the reason Americans aren’t more outraged or guilt-ridden is that the people dying are poor brown people—many of them in a tragic irony are classified as narcos so governments can claim it’s just gang-on-gang violence.    

So perhaps you can see why I sometimes feel a little silly covering the ocean fisheries crisis, telling people what’s not sustainable and why. It’s true, consumer choices are behind the ocean crisis. But you can eat sustainably every day of your life and give to charity every year, and it all gets wiped out with one line of coke ...

There’s no such thing as cruelty-free cocaine

Parents, pastors and youth leaders could help by discussing this hideous reality at home and in church groups for mature students.

I remember my adolescence and university days. Most of my friends and I discreetly experimented with illegal drugs coming from Latin America, some more than others. Today’s students are no different and, with all the calls for legalisation or decriminalisation, perhaps more inclined to do so.

I don’t know what the smuggling situation was 30-some years ago, but this is what today’s is like. Some might call this subjective morality, but if I’d heard this story and read this article (complete with a gruesome photo), it would have stayed in my mind: thanks, but no.

In the same edition of The Observer which featured articles about drugs on the dark net and the UK’s head of the drugs disruption unit, was a gem by Anonymous.

Anonymous’s article is called ‘I like the way MDMA gives you a deep sense of connection to your friends’.

A better title would have been ‘Why I — and many others — take cocaine’.

Some of what he says is breathtaking and not in a good way (emphases mine):

I probably take class-A party drugs such as MDMA or cocaine once a fortnight, and have done since I was 16 (I’m 27 now). I like the way cocaine gives you a new lease of life, like a mushroom in Super Mario, to carry on with a night out. I like the way MDMA softens the edges of reality and gives you a deep sense of connection to your friends that you can never get when you meet them for dinner and they moan about their jobs. I like how when you’re coming down from a pill another person’s touch has a comforting, almost electric capacity. If you’re suffering from exhaustion, anxiety or stress, recreational drugs can give you a bit of a leg-up.

On the other hand:

Drugs can also be a total pain. Ecstasy can make you feel like you’re floating in a cloud, but just as often it’s an admin nightmare: you come up at different times from your friends; only half the people in a group remembered to get sorted and there’s endless hassle at a party trying to get more. Even when you’re having a great time, there’s a self-doubting internal monologue running through the whole process

There’s the key to the whole problem: self-doubt. Entirely normal for that age group, but why do so many young people evade the issue and instead get completely out of their box?

Anonymous doesn’t think the British public are honest and open enough about drugs. I suspect they are not, but Anonymous does go a bit too far in the opposite direction. And most of what he has to say hardly applies to everyone who’s ever fallen on the dark side of drugs.

He describes himself and his friends:

In my demographic – under 30, living in London, job in the creative industries, disposable income – almost everyone is a recreational drugs user.

Where I grew up in south London, it was pretty uncommon to find someone who didn’t at least smoke weed. The children of more middle-class parents were taking cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and mephedrone almost every weekend. These were not reprobates ruining their lives: they were intelligent, bright people who got three As at A-level and went to good universities ...

In some families drug use had less stigma than smoking.

At university, he enjoyed mephedrone — a legal drug no longer available:

Mephedrone was incredibly cheap – about a tenner a gram – and incredibly available. You could order it with next-day delivery to your university PO box. Mephedrone was a drugs phenomenon of which I have never seen the likes before or since. Everyone started doing it

On nights out during this time, everyone would be raging – making out with one another, dancing with total abandon. But the comedowns were immediate and severe, far worse than ecstasy. By 4am people would be lying on the floor sharing the most intimate and personal shames and secrets, as if the drug was somehow compelling them to be honest. Some people called it a truth serum. Friendships were forged in the hot irons of that emotional exposition, as were the most horrendous hangovers.

Mephedrone was banned within two years of it taking off. People talk a lot about one legal high being banned only for another to take its place, but the real legacy of mephedrone was to numb the stigma of harder drugs. By the time I left university, many of the drug abstainers who had tried mephedrone became relaxed about most illegal drugs, too.

This is part of the issue I have with legalising drugs. We do not know what the full effects of many of these compounds, natural or synthetic, will be in the long run. Therefore, there is no justification in being ‘relaxed’ about it.

Even in the short term, he concedes they inhibit normal functioning for the next few days, which is why he takes cocaine:

Ecstasy and mephedrone make it pretty hard to get much done in the days after taking them. You can’t regularly use them and be a successful, functioning adult, so they become a rarer treat once you leave student life. In their 20s most people are overworked: they have second jobs and work incredibly long hours. If they’re going to go out on a Friday night they need a pick-me-up. And that is why cocaine remains the young professional’s drug of choice.

He says:

I also appreciate that’s it’s easy to be blasé about drug use when you’re a well-adjusted middle-class white guy who has never been stopped by the police and has a distant non-social relationship with their drug dealer. For many people, drugs aren’t something they can dip in and out of and separate from their lives. People entangled in the economic and legal realities of drugs – dealers, those convicted of possession, addicts – don’t have the luxury of my relaxed attitude.

Wow, just wow! The arrogance!

A reader, fictionfanatic, replied in the comments below with his own, opposite, experience:

I found this article excruciatingly painful to read. Not because the article is poorly written, in fact, I found the author to be incredibly articulate, but because I have twice overdosed on class A drugs and am now five years in recovery from active addiction

In the early years of my using I had some wonderful experiences on drugs. I agree with a great deal that this writer has to say and I particularly support his argument that drugs should no longer be the ‘taboo’ subject that it is today.

However, there is one sticking point for me. The reference the writer made to drugs giving him the confidence, the laughs and the energy that he doesn’t believe he already possesses.

As an addict I became painfully aware of what drugs had taken away from me when I got clean …

Various drugs do indeed boost confidence, increase energy levels and lighten the mood, however, if a person requires a chemical to do this then even the most casual user is denying themselves the opportunity to have fun, gain confidence and increase energy levels without the use of a drug. I learnt this when I fell threw the doors of a rehab and realised the overly confident, work hard/play hard exhibitionist had disappeared with the class A’s and I was left to rebuild the anxious, self-conscious, shattered shell of a human being that had relied for too many years on drugs to help me be somebody I was not.

Five years later I am now naturally confident and I laugh more than I ever did. I still go out all night sometimes, but I don’t have to pay for it with two days in bed or ‘suicide Tuesdays’.

drugs don’t add to our life experience, they merely mask what isn’t naturally there.

And, one final point… I have never, ever, ever met anyone that is better company when they are on coke. Not once!

I agree. I remember a few acquaintances from the 1980s who took coke. They just were not very nice to be around. They were abrupt, picked arguments and became aggressive. Everything was all about them. Cocaine is not a ‘nice’ drug.

Speaking of the 1980s, I remember reading a lengthy first-person magazine article at that time about a guy from New York who was absolutely broken through cocaine use.

At first, he had it all: great job, superb salary, stunning girlfriend and a beautiful flat. He and his girlfriend eventually started spending more and more on coke because their highs were no longer as long-lasting.

The ending was chilling. He and his girlfriend started having violent arguments. She left him and went into rehab. He stayed behind in the flat. He was having trouble making his mortgage payments. His boss was on the verge of firing him.

The last two days he spent in the flat involved his crawling around on hands and knees sniffing his carpet for any remaining coke dust that might be there. Finally, a friend of his stopped by. The addict fell into his friend’s arms crying like a baby.

By then, he had no job. He hadn’t a penny left. He’d lost the woman he loved.

He had allowed cocaine to destroy him and a beautiful life.

He came out the other side and wrote the article post-rehab. He said he would never be able to recapture what he once had. He was working a rather low-paid job in another industry. But, he said, at least he was clean after a few years of rehab and therapy. He wanted to stay that way but was worried about what the future would hold.

He hoped his story would serve as a warning against drug use, especially cocaine.

No good can come of drugs, particularly this one.

On the same day that the drugs on the dark net article appeared in The Observer (covered in yesterday’s post), the paper interviewed Lawrence Gibbons, who heads the strategic drugs disruption unit at the UK’s National Crime Agency.

He began his career with the Flying Squad, so is determined to get his man.

It’s a good interview and well worth reading. I rarely read about drugs these days and learned quite a lot.

Gibbons said that the online market on the dark net is the way young people purchase their drugs. He warned that even though the encryption there is difficult to hack, it can indeed be done. That means no one is 100% anonymous.

He and his officers work on various aspects of illegal drug supply: class A drugs, new ‘legal’ highs which he and his team refer to as NPS (new psychoactive substances), cutting agents and, not surprisingly, the dark net. He readily admits they cannot tackle everything drug-related, so they address the biggest issues.

The team’s biggest achievement recently has been their disruption of the cocaine cutting system in the UK (bold emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

A kilo block of cocaine enters the UK in its raw form, anywhere from 75% to 90% pure. It is being sold on the streets from 0% purity to 25% purity. Everything else has been added. Organised crime gangs multiply their profits by adding ‘cutting agents’ [for example, benzocaine, novocaine, phenacetin]. We have concentrated a lot on that, to the point that we have altered and disrupted that marketplace. In many cases the dealers involved have been charged and convicted with conspiracy. They are receiving custodial sentences of 10 to 20 years, because they are the key enabler of a drug’s supply.

The drug world has changed dramatically with 21st century communications. Gibbons said it is now easy for dealers and gangs to talk to each other internationally via teleconferences. He said that some laws will need to be changed as more than one country can be the focus of an investigation for the same gangs or person:

With the internet the criminality might be occurring in the UK, but the individual might be purporting to be in Brazil, and actually be in Spain. That makes the legal issues much more complex; legislation will have to keep pace with that.

He and his team focus on ‘prevention and disruption’ rather than conviction, sentencing and seizure as their main aims. They hope their work brings about behavioural changes.

As far as present drug trends go, cocaine is undergoing a revival. Some of the NPS (what we call ‘legal’ highs) sold online actually contain controlled substances. However, even the online sellers could not determine what was in some NPS.

On this subject, he said:

If I told you to go and swallow bleach you wouldn’t do it, but if I told you I had this great new drink

Kids, as we know, can be tempted to try anything. That is what I keep at the back of my mind when I ask myself why I’m doing this. If a white powder comes online tomorrow advertised as the new whizz bang pop, and no one knows exactly what it is, who knows if that isn’t going to be the next drug that kills our children?

Readers responding to the article said this is why we need legalisation. Yet, that will not solve an intractable problem which lures young people into trying drugs, especially the latest ones.

The curiosity accompanying youthful drug experimentation can lead to a great many problems. And legal highs are not necessarily safe ones. These past posts explore a few of them:

Synthetic dope: just because it’s legal doesn’t mean its safe

Drug alert: smoking ‘wet’

US Navy doctor on ‘bath salts': ‘no fad, it’s a nightmare’

To my younger readers, this will be old news.

However, parents and those adults who work with children should know that it is relatively easy to purchase drugs on the Internet. This makes it relatively easy for minors to obtain them, if not directly, then, through a friend.

Jamie Bartlett described how the process works in The Observer. One installs a browser called Tor which gives one access to Tor Hidden Services and what are known as dark net markets. Tor gives the user near-anonymity via encryption; that said, no one is ever 100% anonymous online. (Tor, by the way, was originally built by the United States Navy; today, it is an open source project.)

In the UK, 16% of drug users now make their purchases via the dark net. The dark net has more than drug marketplaces on it; almost anything that is taboo or illegal has a site there. An RMC (Radio Monte Carlo) talk show recently discussed the terrorist networks on the dark net. The presenter was surprised to find such a thing existed, which is why I am passing this information along.

Bartlett navigated the drugs marketplace online and was surprised at the professional presentation of the various websites. He said they were comparable to Amazon and eBay, complete with customer reviews of the merchandise. Users use pseudonyms and pay for purchases with bitcoins.

Because the whole process can be done from the comfort of one’s home, Bartlett posits that purchasing drugs online will have the same effect on drug pushers that Amazon has had on booksellers.

He describes his experience:

… earlier this year an innocuous-looking white envelope was posted through my door by Royal Mail. It was about the size of a postcard, but a little bulky, and padded with bubble-wrap. It looked, felt and smelled no more suspicious than any other item of post I’d received that week. The only difference was that it contained a very small amount of high-quality cannabis …

My marijuana, I was told by an expert friend before disposing of it, was exceptionally good, and cost around £7 for the gram. (In fact, it looked like a bit more than a gram. Doubtless DrugsHeaven was hoping for repeat custom.) It is of little surprise therefore that the dark net markets are growing so quickly. According to a report by the Digital Citizens Alliance, there are now 45,000 drugs products for sale on these sites. In January, it was around 30,000.

Occasionally, he explains, the police or the FBI are able to infiltrate a site and shut it down. However, the dark net is a flexible place that adapts quickly to change:

In 2013 there were a small handful of these marketplaces. There are now around 30, including Hydra, Pandora, Outlaw Market, Agora, Silk Road 2.0 and 1776 Market Place. And most of them are doing a decent trade …

There are hundreds of vendors to choose from, selling every conceivable narcotic: heroin, opium, cocaine, acid, weed, steroids, prescription. Under ecstasy alone: 4-emc, 4-mec, 5-apb, 5-it, 6-apb, butylone, mda, mdai, mdma, methylone, mpa, pentedrone, pills …

From what little is known of them, most of the dealers on dark net markets resemble middle managers in logistics companies who spend their days taking and shipping orders all day and working out new marketing strategies. They aren’t violent gangsters fighting over turf.

He adds (emphasis mine):

Thanks to their smart use of technology, dark net markets are almost impossible to close down: they are too adaptive, too creative. This means more and better drugs more readily available at a competitive price, and that’s nothing to celebrate.

Not surprisingly, reader comments were largely supportive of dark net markeplaces, two said that, despite positive customer reviews, the buyer still needs to keep in mind that quality might differ, just as it would on Amazon or eBay.

Tomorrow’s article explains what Britain’s National Crime Agency is doing about drugs on the dark net.

On October 5, 2014, the Observer reported its latest survey findings on drug use in Britain. The paper last conducted a poll on the subject in 2008.

A summary of the survey follows:

- The percentage of people living in Britain who have tried illegal drugs is 31% (up from 28%).

- Both sexes are equally likely to use drugs (fewer women had in 2008).

- Just over one-fifth — 21% — of people who have ever tried illegal drugs are still taking them today.

- More people living in Scotland have tried drugs — 35% — than in other parts of the UK.

- Nearly one quarter — 23% — of survey respondents use some form of illegal drug daily. However, 55% of current users partake less than once a month.

- The overwhelming majority of drug users — 84% — indulge at home.

- The median starting age for experimentation is 19, although 41% of current users started between the ages of 16 and 18.

- Most young drug users will stop at the age of 26. Women tend to stop drug use earlier than men.

- The most popular drugs in the UK are marijuana (93%), amphetamines (34%), cocaine (29%), ecstasy (25%), magic mushrooms (22%) and LSD (20%).

- Marijuana was the first drug 82% of users tried. N.B.: Fifty per cent of dope smokers shy away from other drugs.

- If drugs were decriminalised in Britain, 16% of those surveyed who had never used illegal drugs would consider doing so.

- If drugs were decriminalised, first-time users (aforementioned 16%) would choose marijuana (81%), cocaine (28%), ecstasy (28%), magic mushrooms (22%), amphetamines (20%) and LSD (19%).

There are more data at the link. The article is nicely laid out and worth a read.

It is likely, particularly given the Liberal Democrats’ push for decriminalisation at their party conference last week, that this subject will run and run.

More on drugs tomorrow.

One of my late grandmothers-in-law was a Londoner, born and bred.

One of her maxims was ‘the old ways are the best’.

Although she went to her rest several years ago, I often think of that saying every time new health advice makes the headlines.

In April 2014, I took a leap of faith and embarked on a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate — ketogenic — diet. I did so because I wondered if I could find a way of eating that would produce not only weight loss but also extended health benefits.

My regular readers might remember some of the following posts. However, new subscribers can find them on my Recipes / Health / History page.

Resources on the ketogenic diet — originally used when treating epileptics nearly a century ago — include the following posts. If you are looking for a mood regulator or something which is anti-cancer, anti-migraine and lowers blood pressure as well as cholesterol, these might be of interest:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin's paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

I had a serious family matter to deal with not long after I embarked on the ketogenic diet. Thank goodness, because it gave me the energy and alertness to accomplish what needed to be done.

I also lost several pounds eating more animal and Omega-3 fats. My vegetable consumption has soared. I haven’t had processed carbohydrates since August.

As I am of a normal weight seeking to get to the lower end of normal, my macronutrient percentages of fat v protein v carb) are approximately 55% fat, 40% protein and 5% vegetable carbohydrate. Butter, meat fat and cream feature daily.

I only wish I’d known about this diet when I was a youngster. It would have helped me from adolescence through adulthood. I am convinced that consuming refined carbohydrates has contributed to a greater sense of calm.

It is difficult to change eating habits and general dietary outlook. We think we are doing the right thing by following government guidelines but maybe we would do better going back to the old ways which, often, are the best. My grandmothers did not eat many refined carbs — bread, biscuits, or cakes. They had a few chocolate candies only at Christmas or on special occasions. All of those were treats. They also did not snack during the day.

Anyone who is on a low carb high fat — LCHF — eating plan and feels great will have a difficult time convincing others of its benefits, satiety and safety. As one of my friends told me, ‘I don’t know. This goes against everything I’ve been teaching my children about food.’

For over 30 years, we have been told that we need refined carbohydrates. Yet, because of the way our bodies process insulin, a lot of those carbs turn into fat. Hence, our obesity and diabetes ‘epidemics’. Probably the only people who actually need carbohydrate are those on subsistence diets in the Third World. That eliminates vast swathes of Westerners.

Take a look at the ‘healthy’ aisle of your supermarket. Most of the foods there are some sort of carbohydrate. Cooking shows are full of carb-laden foods — often prepared with low-fat yoghurt or vegetable oil. School and hospital canteen menus are full of refined carbs and sugars.

I am convinced that, because the LCHF way of eating begins working relatively quickly on the body, more people would find it a better pathway to an even disposition and better health than pills, potions or the food group charts. That goes for children, especially excitable ones, as well as adults.

In closing, here are three more related posts worth reading:

Bad science: obesity, cholesterol, statistics and statins (Dr David Diamond returns to meat and good health)

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

If you’ve tried an LCHF way of eating, I’d be interested to read about your experience in the comments below. Thank you in advance.

Bible ancient-futurenetContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 18:24-30

24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers[a] or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”


Today’s reading is a continuation of last week’s story of the young ruler, a synagogue leader who was unwilling to give up all he had to follow Christ. This man would also have been a Pharisee, although not one of the mocking types haranguing Him.

What follows are the corresponding verses in Matthew and Mark’s Gospels which help to bring a fuller understanding of the story (emphases mine):

Matthew 19:23-30

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have? 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world,[a] when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[b] and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Mark 10:23-31

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

The young ruler left, downcast and sad. He was unable to leave behind his trusteeship of his estate and synagogue leadership. As I explained last week, his congregation chose him as their leader because the Jews connected wealth with divine blessings. If you pleased God, He blessed you materially, they believed. Therefore, they also saw him as having the best morals, because, otherwise, God would not have blessed him so greatly with riches, land and livestock.

Consequently, the man was unable to turn away from this manmade adulation, sell everything for the benefit of the poor and follow our Lord. His family would have disowned him and his congregation would have been excommunicated him — very serious.

This is why Jesus said that it is so difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (verse 23). There’s too much at stake for them in this world. Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

If this ruler had had but as little of the world as Peter, and James, and John had, in all probability he would have left it, to follow Christ, as they did but, having a great estate, it had a great influence upon him, and he chose rather to take his leave of Christ than to lay himself under an obligation to dispose of his estate in charitable uses.

Jesus then uses a saying from the ancient world to describe this difficulty: the ease by which a camel could pass through a needle (verse 26). This logistical impossibility has more of a chance of succeeding than a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven.

MacArthur explains the history of the saying:

This is proverbial, by the way, and probably was a relatively common statement. We have statements like it that are found in the Talmud. One rabbi named Nowmonie(???), he uses an elephant and when talking about something that is impossible says, “It would be easier to put an elephant through the eye of a needle,” an elephant being the largest animal in Mesopotamia. In Israel the largest animal was a camel. It was a way to express something that couldn’t happen. And it was hyperbole. It was vast exaggeration.

He also discounts the alternative explanations:

But some people have struggled with that and they’ve said, “Well wait a minute, then you’re saying it’s impossible to be saved. How can you say it’s impossible for a rich person to be saved? I know a few rich people that are saved. How can it be? So maybe it means something else.” So even … the early fathers, Origen, and Cyril of Alexandria many years ago, maybe the fifth century said, “Kamelos should be kamilos,” and some scribe wrote down kamelos, camel, instead of kamilos, cord. And he was really saying cord meaning a thread and it’s easier to thread a needle than to get a rich man into heaven. It takes a little work and a little effort but it can be done.

No, that can’t be right because we have the proverbial usage of an elephant through the eye of a needle as a way in the Middle East in ancient times to express something that was absolutely impossible. And they were saying it because it was impossible. Others have suggested it’s talking about a Needle Gate, that in the side of the city wall in Jerusalem there’s a little tiny needle gate, they call it a needle gate because it’s small and people used to stuff their camels through the needle gate. Now you tell me why anybody would stuff his camel through a needle gate when he could walk about ten yards to the big gate and walk the thing through? And there is no needle gate, no one’s ever found a needle gate anywhere in the history of the walls of Jerusalem.

We see in Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts that the disciples were ‘astonished’ and ‘amazed’ at this statement. This is because of the ancient Jewish link of blessings with wealth. Therefore, it is natural that the disciples ask (verse 26) who, then — implying ‘if not rich people’ — can be saved?

Jesus clarifies personal regeneration and salvation in verse 27: essentially, what man is incapable of accomplishing, God can. The young ruler could not be saved through works righteousness. Only God’s grace granting him faith could bring him to eternal life. The same is true for us, whatever our circumstances.

Peter then points out that he and the disciples have left everything behind to follow Jesus (verse 28). Jesus affirms that anyone who leaves behind family or possessions — encumbrances — to follow Him will receive not only many blessings in this life but are assured of eternal life in heaven (verses 29, 30).

We would do well to note Mark 10:30, which adds ‘persecutions’ to the list of temporal blessings. Christianity does not guarantee a trouble-free life. However, should we be persecuted, we will be given divine grace and fortitude to withstand our trials, even death.

Then we have Mark 10:31, the famous ‘many who are first will be last, and the last first’. God will exalt the lowly holy among us in the next life. Many others, who were exalted in this life, will stand behind them.

This raises a question. Do we follow the instructions of preachers who tell us to sell our possessions and live in penury? No. MacArthur explains Jesus’s words in this regard:

Jesus doesn’t ask everybody to do that. He doesn’t ask most people to do that. But He asks everybody to be willing to do that.

There is a difference.

It would also be erroneous to think that all rich people are fiends and all poor people are saints. We are all sinners and it does none of us any good to think we are better than others.

Next time: Luke 18:31-34

ASH — Action on Smoking and Health — would do well if they could kindly tell the public what their organisation’s attitude is towards legalisation of drugs.

Because ASH never say anything anti-drug. If I’ve missed something there, please let me know in the comments below.

It would be helpful if a journalist or perhaps a smokers’ advocate could ask ASH the following and make it public:

1/ Would the ultimate end of tobacco smoking — doubtful, in reality — bring about their advocacy of illicit drugs?

2/ Do they support — sotto voce or otherwise — current moves to decriminalise marijuana?

3/ Do they agree with British Professor David Nutt‘s views on drugs?

Smokers should be told the truth about where their tobacco taxes are going. Currently, that is on ASH’s smoker demonisation programmes. But what happens in future?

Unlike many libertarians — and some smokers — I fully object to decriminalisation of illicit drugs and will be writing more about why next week.

The dope many smoked at university 25 or 40 years ago is no longer the bulk of what is available today. In fact, I read several years ago that middle aged and older people going to Amsterdam’s ‘coffee houses’ for the first time will be advised not to smoke several types on the menu: ‘This isn’t what you smoked in the 60s and 70s.’

That is because it has a hallucinogenic effect.

I’ve written before about an ex-skunk addict and the trouble today’s dope created for him and his marriage. That post also has two other first-hand stories about people I knew who had involvement in drugs.

Just to round things out, I knew another guy in the 1980s who found it very difficult getting off drink and drugs. He really couldn’t consume anything remotely addictive. He went sugar-free and tobacco-free, after which he became rather hyper with unpredictable moods. At that time, he was separated from his wife who was expecting their first child.

I pray that things worked out for them in the end, however, there are millions like him who endure years of agony trying to get clean. They miss their highs, their drug-induced experiences and the excitement that surrounds illegal drug taking.

It’s an uphill battle. Whilst some people survive drugs, many others find illegal substances ruin their lives.

Tobacco Control’s current ‘safe’ messaging for drugs — which also tells us there ‘is no safe amount of tobacco’ — is highly irresponsible and misleading.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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