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‘Narkomania’ speaker visits VSU, discusses drugs, politics

Tuesday afternoon, about 40 people attended a talk by VSU’s Dr. Jennifer Carroll, an anthropologist who works with the CDC and is an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

Carroll held the intriguingly titled event, “Narkomania,” a seminar examining how drug use intertwines with large-scale conflicts and society in general. The event took place at the Cypress Room in the University Center.

Carroll kicked off her event by first enlightening the audience on some vital background information on drugs such as educating the crowd on what schedule I and schedule II drugs are and giving examples of both. She also introduced some surprising facts like how heroin used to be sold as medication back in the late 1800s and how it was a trademark of the Bayer corporation.

She also told the audience that schedule II drugs are the most addictive and that methadone is one of the best treatments for heroin despite critics lashing out that it is just “trading one addiction for another.” As the introduction came to a close, Carroll explained that humans operate in patterns and epidemics (especially drug epidemics) are a social process.

The primary focus of the event was Carroll’s own experience during the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014 and how drugs played a massive role in it. Being an anthropologist, Carroll’s task in Ukraine was to study and work with the internationally-funded treatment programs for opioid use disorder and to explain the relationship it had with the geopolitical conflict within the country.

After President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February of 2014, the Ukraine underwent a series of changes in its sociopolitical system, including the new formation of an interim government. These changes in government were exemplified when Carroll cited that the people of Ukraine were told to get excited about their new leaders who “they voted for” when in reality the people had no say in who their leaders were to be shortly after the reformation of their government.

While the revolution was occurring, Carroll explained how people who struggled with drug addiction were demonized and characterized as criminal, awful people by the new government. The lack of knowledge the newly founded government had on drugs negatively impacted many Ukrainians when the newly appointed drug star banned methadone and other medically assisted drugs alike that were used to help people treat addiction.

Additionally, Carroll explained how getting rid of the drugs was a political statement, showing the audience a picture of heavily armed government agents burning many bags of medical-assisted drugs, also adding that the government wanted stunts like these to get attention.

In addition, random people were wrongly accused of being drug dealers and were tortured by pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine during the revolution.

Despite all of this, Carroll said the people of Ukraine banded together throughout the whole process, citing a particular event in which citizens were barricaded and separated from the police for a few weeks during the riots. During this time, the people developed a sense of community and trust they wanted as Ukrainians.

Other topics that were briefly covered in this presentation included the opioid epidemic here in the United States, specifically the deadly effects of fentanyl being laced in drugs and how things such as “destabilizing relationships with your #1 dealer” puts users at immediate risk of death.

Brian, a criminal justice major here at VSU, said he enjoyed the presentation and that it “opened his eyes to the severity of drug-related conflicts occurring worldwide.”

Written by Grant Palmer, Staff Writer.

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