Tag Archives: drugs

How Drug Traffickers Use America’s Coast-to-Coast ‘Pot Pipeline’

On a new episode of WEEDIQUETTE, Krishna Andavolu tracks a shipment of bud from California to New York. Decreased enforcement in the Empire State and increased production out west has created a coast-to-coast "pot pipeline"—which Krishna follows alongside a trafficker who's mastered the route.

WEEDIQUETTE airs Wednesdays at 10 PM on VICELAND.

Plus, on a new episode of BONG APPÉTIT, Abdullah Saeed throws a Southern-style barbecue with industry legend Kevin Bludso. They dig into hemp-raised pork, cook up cannabis-infused cornbread, and top it all off with barbecue sauce that will get you stoned.

BONG APPÉTIT airs Wednesdays at 10:30 PM on VICELAND.

Want to know if you get VICELAND? Head here to find out how to tune in.

Stop Calling Ecstasy-Related Deaths Overdoses

On a Saturday night two weeks ago in Toronto, a 24-year-old woman died after collapsing in a nightclub in the city. Four other people were also hospitalized that same night after they were all taken ill—one in the same venue, and three in a different one. The local papers reported that woman who died and the people who wound up in hospital were all the victims of suspected drug overdoses involving MDMA. The press also reported that these incidents were likely caused by "a bad batch of street level drugs."

This description of events is fairly typical whenever there's a drug fatality in the nightlife scene, and is true of Canada just as much it is of the UK and US. Ecstasy deaths are often immediately reported as overdoses, before toxicology reports are available, and attributed to super-strength tablets that have been laced with toxic substances and are infiltrating nightclubs.

There is a big problem with this narrative: it's usually inaccurate at best and gives the public a superficial view of the actual dangers of taking ecstasy and how to mitigate them.

Ecstasy fatalities grab a lot of attention, despite being one of the rarest types of drug deaths. The most recently available from the Center for Disease Control showed that 52,404 people in the US died of drug-related causes in 2015. Opioids (prescription and illicit) were the main driver, contributing to 33,091 of those deaths. While the CDC doesn't record ecstasy deaths, a 2009 study estimated about 50 occur a year. How drug deaths are reported on in the media—and in turn how they are discussed in common parlance—is often misleading and sensationalized, loaded with prejudice about drug users and perpetuating potentially dangerous urban legends. Even the term "overdose," when used to describe the fatal results of taking MDMA, is often imprecise.

"The word overdose is misleading in a lot of situations, but particularly with MDMA," Henry Fischer, policy director at drug policy think tank VolteFace told THUMP. Fischer said the term is generally unhelpful when talking about deaths caused by illicit substances because an overdose is the ingestion of more than the recommended amount of a drug, and there aren't "doses" of illegal drugs, as such. "If you've taken more than you should have to enjoy the effects, if you've had an unpleasant time, is that an overdose?"

Read the full story at Thump.

The Support Groups That Help People Process Psychedelic Trips

"How do you come back from a trip?" asks Sherree Godasi, perched on a round cushion in the back room of a Santa Monica boutique that smells of incense and is covered with Tibetan prayer flags and portraits of Buddha. "One way I love integrating is swimming." 

It's a Monday night and there's about ten of us sitting on floor pillows in a circle around Godasi, who is from Israel and wears her long auburn hair in two tight French braids. Godasi is what's known as a psychedelic integration coach, and the bi-monthly, donation-based meetings she leads are intended to provide support and guidance after a psychedelic trip induced by hallucinogenic substances. The aim, she says, is to offer a space for thoughtful integration—or the mental processing of a psychedelic experience long after the effects of a drug have worn off. It's an aspect of psychedelic experimentation that's often overlooked in mainstream culture, but that devotees say is equally as important (if not more important) than the trip itself. 

The concept of integration has been around in some form or another for nearly as long as people have been seeking enlightenment through mind-altering substances. Modern enthusiasts trace the practice back hundreds of years to Amazonian as well as Native American tribes who took psychedelics in ceremonial settings in search of enlightenment. But in Western medicine, it wasn't until the 1960s that integration became a tenet of the psychedelic therapy movement, pioneered by radical California psychologists like Leo Zeff, a Jungian therapist who saw psychedelics as a tool for self-improvement, and James Fadiman, who co-founded the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto in 1975.

But only recently have coaches, therapists, and healers begun to advertise these services more widely and to the general public. Godasi is one of just a handful of psychedelic integration coaches that openly practices in Los Angeles, but groups like hers have started forming in cities across the country. The rise of so-called integration circles coincides with what many practitioners are calling a psychedelic renaissance, signaled by a new wave of academic research into the possible medicinal benefits of substances like psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in mushrooms) and MDMA. Godasi and those who seek her services hope that these above ground meetings will help legitimize psychedelics as real forms of medicine and therapy, rather than just party drugs.

"The field is so new and it's so needed because everyone knows people who drop acid or who roll on molly—right, most of us do—and these people are experimenting with in fact what are considered extremely powerful substances and medicine," Godasi told me in a phone interview. "Why is there a medical system to assist people who take Advil or overdose on sleeping pills, but not one to help someone who felt like they met their own god or became completely in love with their friend while taking MDMA?"

If Godasi today considers herself something of an expert on psychedelics, then it was only recently that she was still taking substances "kind of mindlessly," she says. Then an experience at Coachella three years ago shifted her whole point of view. "I took a huge dose of MDMA that completely changed my life and it was hard to get back into this world, you know, with everything that I understand now," she recalls. "All of the new and incredible universal knowledge and downloads that I received and understandings about the nature of humanity" left her crying the whole drive home, she says. But she had no idea what to make of this experience or how to integrate it into her everyday life. 

It wasn't until the following year that she discovered integration during a psychedelic conference in LA called Visionary Convergence. The idea behind it, presented in a lecture by Berkeley-based clinical psychologist Susana Bustos, immediately clicked with Godasi. But when she and her friend Ashley Booth—the founder of the LA-based psychedelic advocacy group Aware Project—noticed there were few places in the city that offered integration support, they launched their own last year. The result is an organization called InnerSpace Integration, which laid the groundwork for Godasi's integration circles (she has since branched off and now leads them under her own independent brand). 

"Because of prohibition, people don't have the kind of support and education to be able to make good decisions about usage," says Booth, who adds that those who go on ayahuasca retreats in Peru, for example, where it's legal, sometimes arrive home to find there's nobody else to talk about their experiences with. "We really would like to create these sort of gathering spaces for people to be able to continue to talk about their experience and how their integration process is unfolding," she says.

Most psychedelics are still Schedule I drugs, with LSD, MDMA, and Psilocybin listed in the same category for abuse as heroin. Which is why Godassi begins every integration circle with a legal disclaimer: She is in no way encouraging anyone to procure or ingest illegal substances. She also instructs the group to avoid naming any medicine providers—a preferred term in this community for what others might think of as drug dealers—or disclosing the locations where we may have taken hallucinogenic substances like ayahuasca, which in the United States is often administered illegally during group ceremonies in private homes or other underground venues. There's always a chance there could be undercover cops in the room, Godassi says, before alerting everyone to my presence as a journalist. (The members of the group have asked to remain anonymous in this article, many citing potential professional repercussions as a result of their use of psychedelics). 

The integration circle is mostly self-directed, and Godasi says she prefers to sit back and observe rather than guiding the conversation. (She also leads one-on-one sessions that tend to be more intensive.) But getting the group to talk isn't always easy, and even though everyone is presumably here to get something off their chests, the room is frequently punctuated by awkward silences. Godasi scans the room, making eye contact and gently posing open-ended questions to find out who recently had a psychedelic experience they're struggling to make sense of. Once the group finally does start to open up, their anecdotes are sometimes prefaced with notes of caution that they've never told it to anyone before. When one person says he no longer relates to his friends after having done ayahuasca, Godasi jumps in with supportive questions intended to provoke dialgoue. "Our entire life revolves around relationships," she says. "So how do you come back and talk to people?" Think of the experience, she says, as "an invitation to reassess where you are."

"James," a 50-year-old IT recruiter who asked me not to use his real name, is one of the group's more regular members. He says he experimented with psychedelics recreationally when he was in his teens and 20s, but after getting hooked on methamphetamines, he quit drugs altogether and got sober. "I moved away from the area I was in, I just changed my life and led a suburban life for 20 years," he says. "And a couple years ago my life got shaken up and I started looking for myself again." 

That's when he turned to psychedelics—and this time he wasn't just looking to get high. He'd been seeing a psychotherapist for a while, he says, but it wasn't until he started tripping on ayahuasca and DMT that he started to have a breakthrough about who he really was and how to be himself—especially at work, where he felt like he was always pretending to be a more likable, corporate version of himself. "That process of becoming more at ease with myself, becoming less inhibited, being more comfortable with my own skin, all of those things have been helped immensely by psychedelics," he says, cautioning that while his own experiences have been positive, psychedelics aren't for everybody, nor does he advocate that they'll help anyone else in the same way. "That's where the practice of integration comes in because you learn things about yourself but you have to figure out what those things mean to you and how to integrate them into your life."

But it's not as if he can tell his colleagues and clients about the time he hallucinated that humanoids told him the meaning of life during a DMT trip. Those are the kinds of stories he saves for Godasi's integration circle, where it's not uncommon to hear from people who say they spoke to God, saw the afterlife, or communicated with the spirits of deceased loved ones during a psychedelic trip. These are the types of anecdotes that Godasi says could get a person diagnosed with psychosis or mania if they were to tell a doctor or a therapist about them—instead, she says, most people choose to keep quiet. Others, like James, seek out an integration coach. 

As the 90 minute integration circle comes to a close, Godasi presses her palms together in prayer and bows her head down, thanking us all for coming and for sharing our experiences. Most of us just met each other tonight, but nobody is ready to leave yet. We all stand in a circle making small talk, and James asks another member of the group where her accent is from. She says she believes she may have inherited it from a past life. Then, as well all linger in the room, she says she can feel that maybe our spirits have exited our bodies and are now communicating telepathically with one another. Everyone stares at each other in silence.

Some Guy Asked the Cops to Send a Drug Dog to Find His Missing Heroin

It's apparently been a wild year for Joseph Murphy. The Ohio man kicked off 2017 by getting arrested outside Disney World on New Year's Day and allegedly pissing on a police officer's leg. He then slammed his Mercedes into a sign near his hometown before blowing a .121 blood alcohol content. Now, Murphy's racked up yet another run-in with the cops by dialing 911 to ask his local police department if they could help him track his stolen heroin, a Cleveland ABC affiliate reports.

According to the 911 call, Murphy apparently thought he could just phone up the police and order a drug-sniffing dog from the canine unit. A police officer working at the local Bath Township police department told News 5 Cleveland that it was "the most bizarre" call he's heard in his 41 years on the job.

"You need a police dog?" the dispatcher asked. "What's going on there?"

"She stole heroin from me," Murphy replied.

Though understandably confused about a) who "she" might be and b) why Murphy specifically requested a police dog, the local police figured the whole heroin thing merited a trip over to Murphy's place. By the time the cops arrived, he'd apparently realized that telling a police officer you had heroin on you probably isn't the best idea. So Murphy changed up his story—claiming some woman actually stole his money, not his drugs.

But that story didn't fool the cops, because a few minutes later, Murphy reportedly reached into his pants and pulled out a "brown waxy substance," which authorities presumed to be drugs. The cops then threw him in a squad car and took him to the station, where they fingerprinted and booked him before letting him head home. 

According to police, he's now looking at facing a felony drug charge.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

VICE Talks Weed with Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at VICE Canada's Toronto office to discuss the government's weed legalization bill at an exclusive live event on April 24th, 2017. Trudeau and MP Bill Blair, who has been the Liberals' pointman on this file, were questioned about the new legislation at the live event, hosted by Manisha Krishnan. They also took questions from guests who will be directly impacted by the new laws and through those conversations, touched on harm reduction, the possibility of pardons, how dispensaries will fit into a new system focussed largely on big licensed producers, and how the government plans to keep the products from licensed producers safe.

Couple Faces $1 Million Fine, Jail Time for Smuggling Highly Powerful Opioid

A 59-year-old man in Kitchener, Ontario, is facing up to a $1 million fine and 20 years in prison for attempting to export bootleg fentanyl and pentylone, another synthetic drug. Karl Morrison and his wife, 60-year-old Sorina Morrison, pleaded guilty to attempting to export the drugs from China to the US after being arrested at the US-Canadian border near Niagara Falls when crossing into Canada.

The couple had crossed into the US on October 15, 2016, to retrieve four packages sent from China containing the drugs at a PO box in New York State, bought packaging supplies, and repackaged the substance to ship it to Canada, according to the US attorney's office. When shipping packages containing 6.5 grams of furanyl fentanyl (a bootleg fentanyl product) and 500 grams of pentylone, Sorina said she was sending cinnamon butter home to Canada. Due to the high potency of fentanyl, which is up to 100 times more potent than morphine, minuscule amounts can mean the difference between a high and an overdose. A recent report claimed that two people a day die in Ontario due to opioid overdoses.

Sorina is also facing up to a $250,000 fine and three years in prison. According to court documents, the couple had told US border guards upon entering the country that they were going shopping.

"The couple discarded the Chinese shipping labels of the original packages in various garbage cans around Niagara County to cover their tracks," reads the US attorney's release. "They also obtained the name and address of an unsuspecting citizen in Niagara Falls to use as the return address on the packages they shipped to Canada, to further disguise the origin of the illegal contents." They were trying to ship the drugs to Canada, including one package that was destined for their home address.

In addition to using a random's address as the return address in their attempted drug-trafficking scheme, the couple also blamed their son, Albert, whom Karl claimed was a known drug abuser, saying that they picked up the packages for him, Global News reports.

"Albert had explained to Karl what he was having sent to the mailbox in Niagara Falls," the complaint states. "Karl Morrison said he did not understand everything his son was telling him, but that Albert said the names of the things he was sending started with 'F' and 'U."'

Karl and Sorina are set to appear in court in Buffalo, New York, in July for sentencing.

Follow Allison Tierney on Twitter.

Donald Trump’s Drug Czar Is Very High on Forced Rehab

The man Donald Trump is reportedly set to tap as America's next "drug czar"—officially, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy—shares Attorney General Jeff Session's passion for renewing the War on Drugs. At a hearing on the heroin problem last year, Congressman Tom Marino said he supports mandatory inpatient treatment for "nondealer, nonviolent drug abusers", and that he likes the idea of placing them in a "hospital-slash-prison" setting.

Let's set aside for a second that a plurality of drug arrests in America involve non-addicted pot smokers who do not need any treatment. What the public and the press typically fail to question in covering this issue is whether coerced treatment works at all—and if it does, if it is the best use of limited resources.

To the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this is a settled question: in its Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, one of the key planks is that "treatment doesn't need to be voluntary to be effective." But some researchers who have recently reviewed the data came to the opposite conclusion, and in my own experience and reporting, I've found demonstrable negative effects when people are coerced into getting help.

A frightening report released last year by Massachusetts, for instance, found that, at least in their state, people who had been treated for addiction without their consent were more than twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to those who had attended voluntarily. Meanwhile, according to the most recent data, around one third of patients in the addiction treatment system nationally are there under some sort of legal pressure—and in some programs, criminal justice referrals make up the overwhelming majority of patients. Drug courts, which are designed expressly to use coercion to get people into treatment, now include some 120,000 defendants annually.

Dan Werb, assistant professor of public health at the University of California—San Diego, recently reviewed the data on the "hospitals-slash-prisons" Marino is so high on. In these centers, participants don't have a choice: they are forced into treatment and not even given the option of a cell.

"The main finding is that there is so little evidence," he tells me. "There's much more robust evidence on the value of voluntary treatment." Of the studies that exist on compulsory treatment, the majority (77 percent) found either no clearly proven effect on drug use or crime—or that forced treatment actually made people worse by increasing their likelihood of arrest or relapse(22 percent).

Some of the included studies were conducted in countries where compulsory treatment is little more than forced labor (and some of it is torture). But even in the United States, there is plenty of forced rehab that doesn't actually do much good. One study of 506 defendants mandated to a Texas rehab for six months found no significant difference in recidivism between graduates, dropouts and people who weren't mandated to the program. Another study of over 2,000 American military veterans found that although those who were mandated into treatment initially seemed more likely to succeed, five years later they were no more likely to be in recovery than those who chose to be in treatment.

Oh, and there is a storied legacy of US treatment programs that featured unpaid labor and torturous practices, too.

David Farabee, professor of psychiatry at the University of California—Los Angeles, who has studied the effects of coercion on treatment for decades, notes that much of the data here is confounded by what scientists call a "selection effect." What this means, essentially, is that pre-existing differences between the groups being compared actually account for what look like treatment effects. In the case of addiction treatment, research has long shown that—up to a point—spending more time in treatment is associated with better outcomes.

That has led to the conclusion that a "higher dose" of treatment is more effective. But there's a massive problem with drawing that lesson from these data. That is: many treatment centers expel people for relapsing—and those who drop out are often doing so because rehab has not made them better at sustaining abstinence. In other words, those who stay longer are more motivated to recover, regardless of any effect of treatment. According to Farabee, research on legal sanctions to motivate people to stay in treatment shows that they do stay longer—but that doesn't mean that they actually have better outcomes.

Adds Farabee, "The more you dig, the more you see that the notion that coercion is a panacea is unfounded. The best thing you can say is that people are more likely to show up if made to do so."

Alex Stevens, professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, is the author of a review of the data on people who are given a choice between treatment and prison. He found that in this case, legally-coerced patients do no better or worse than those who come voluntarily. But it's hard to tell what that really means. For one, people who were considered as being there "voluntarily" actually had other pressures on them. "His wife said he had to come, otherwise she'd leave, his boss said he'd lose his job—or someone is just bored of being arrested all the time," he explains.

Check out the VICE Sports explainer on weed in the NFL. 

A bigger problem is the effects that coercion has on treatment quality and the programs themselves. Consider, for example, the fact that trauma and PTSD are highly linked to addiction, particularly childhood sexual abuse. Imagine trying to sincerely open up about these painful and highly personal experiences in a room full of people who are rolling their eyes and crossing their arms and are unlikely to maintain any type of confidentiality since they haven't really consented to the conditions of treatment.

Farabee has conducted focus groups with prisoners about addiction treatment during incarceration. "Every single time, generally older guys would say, 'I actually am sick and tired, I want to quit. Can you get rid of the guys who don't want to be here?' That was repeated in multiple focus groups over the years."

Another negative effect that coercion can have on treatment quality is less obvious, but perhaps more important. Research shows clearly that having a strong therapeutic connection between practitioners and patients is one of the best predictors of good outcomes. But this is difficult to do when patients see their therapist as just another agent of the government who will report them to the court when they fail.

Moreover, there's lots of evidence that a more respectful treatment environment—not a punitive or confrontational one—is way more effective. If programs have to work to attract people into attending—rather than having customers forced to accept their services—they are far more likely to create such spaces. This problem is further reinforced by the ideology of legal coercion: treatment failure results in incarceration or other punishment for the patient—not negative consequences or fewer referrals from the justice system for the program. When you don't hold programs accountable for how they treat patients and when treatment quality actually requires kindness and empathy, criminal justice coercion can be a seriously negative force.

There's also a basic fairness question here: Why should people who've been arrested have priority in getting healthcare over those who voluntarily seek help?

"It's generally widely accepted that addiction is a mental illness that should be treated through the public health system and through clinical protocols," says Werb. "That begs the question: what is the best deliverer of healthcare in addiction treatment? I think it would be very difficult to make the case that somehow the justice system is a better deliverer than the health care system."

Follow Maia Szalavitz on Twitter.

Why Acid Attacks Have Doubled in the UK

In the early hours of Easter Monday at a glitzy club night in an east London bar, 20 people were sprayed with acid. The attack—which took place during a fight, allegedly over drugs, between two groups of men at Mangle, a bar in Dalston—prompted the evacuation of 600 guests. It left two people blind in one eye, two men with severe facial injuries, and a host of clubgoers needing treatment for scarring.

This weekend police arrested 24-year-old scaffolder Arthur Collins—boyfriend of TOWIE's British reality TV star Ferne McCann—in connection with the incident. He has since been charged with 14 counts of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and one count of throwing corrosive fluid on a person with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

An acid attack affecting such a large group of people is rare, but the use of noxious chemicals—or "face melters"—as a weapon of choice is now horrifyingly frequent in the UK. Figures released by the Metropolitan Police found there has been a steep rise in the number of reported attacks in London to more than one incident a day, from 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2016. The rise in the capital is mirrored nationally, with growing numbers of people being treated for acid attacks in the hospital and in incidents reported to police across the UK.

The Mangle attack was one of four such attacks in the space of just 11 days in London over the Easter holidays. On April 8, a local Chinese family out for a walk with their two-year-old son in had acid thrown at them. Screaming in pain, they were doused in water by passersby. The 40-year-old father suffered "life-changing" injuries.

Less than a week later, on Good Friday afternoon, a man in his 20s was driving his Audi S3 in north London. A white SUV rear-ended him. When he got out to inspect the damage, he was sprayed in the face with ammonia and pushed to the ground before the carjackers sped off in his car. Last Wednesday, two days after the Mangle incident, a teenager suffered "life-changing" burns on his face and neck after he and a female friend were pelted with acid in west London.

WATCH: The Great Council House Scam – The Cocaine Dealer

It's a pretty shocking sequence, but then you look at February: five acid attacks, all within a small radius around east London and Essex—a zone which appears to be the epicenter of acid attacks in Britain. There was the attack on a Tube train in Barking, at an amateur football game, and then a secondary school in Dagenham, in east London. Plus, there were two carjackings in Essex, including that of former boxer Michael Watson in east London's Chingford. In November 2016, a British Pakistani businessmen had acid squirted in his face from an energy sports drink bottle in a racist attack by a gang of 14 teenagers in Dagenham.

In its 2017 Threat Assessment, Thurrock Council in Essex declared acid attacks "a new and rising concern in gang related violence." In February, there were seven acid attacks in the borough of Havering in just three weeks. Last May, 17-year-old Alexander Bassey was sentenced to eight years in jail for grievous bodily harm after spraying five teenage boys with acid from a bottle at Ockendon train station. The list goes on.

Acid attacks are not new. The substance was a popular weapon in Victorian Britain, mainly because sulphuric acid was produced on an industrial scale then. It was also used as a tool of fear in gangland Britain, appearing in Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock, in the form of a small bottle carried by the book's antihero gangster, Pinkie Brown. In southeast Asia, where acid attacks are sickeningly commonplace, they are primarily a weapon of domestic violence or "honor" violence, by men against women. It's harder to think of a more malicious way of ruining someone's life.

In recent years, there have been appalling incidents recorded around Britain: the man disfigured in a case of mistaken identity in Cornwall; TV host Katie Piper, who had acid thrown at her on the orders of a man who had raped her; the man left with terrible scars after bleach was tossed in his face outside a cinema in Sussex; and the Sun's gangland investigator, attacked with acid at his home in Glasgow. But now a trickle of attacks have turned into a flood.

A screenshot from security footage of 17-year-old Alexander Bassey spraying five teenage boys with acid at Ockendon train station

There is a reason why acid is increasingly becoming a weapon of choice in 2017. Unlike high-profile UK victims such as Piper and Naomi Oni, who was attacked by her jealous friend disguised in a veil, the new wave of noxious chemical assaults in Britain are now chiefly carried out by young men on other young men—mainly low-level criminals using acid as a tool of revenge and for settling petty disputes.

For young armed offenders operating under increased crackdowns on knives and guns, a chemical weapon has an advantage: It can be carried incognito in a soft-drink bottle and is legal, cheap, and easy to get. Sulphuric acid, for example, in the form of drain cleaner, can be bought for just a few dollars in any DIY store. But crucially, acid is a weapon with a uniquely grotesque impact.

"The primary motive of an acid attack is not to kill, but to leave its mark on an opponent—to disfigure someone for everyone to see. That's why the face is often the target," Jaf Shah of the London-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International said. "The shocking thing about acid attacks is that they are so premeditated: The perpetrator is aware of the serious physical and psychological impact these chemicals will have on the victim when they are buying it. That's what makes this weapon so chilling."

Acid attacks have close links to Britain's drug world. Last June, two brothers were jailed after throwing a bottle of One Shot drain cleaner over a homeless mother of six, Carla Whitlock, in England's port city Southampton, in revenge for a drug deal gone wrong. The judge described their actions as "medieval barbarism" and acid as a "pernicious and evil" weapon. In 2009, a key witness in a murder trial involving rival teenage drug-dealing gangs from south London was attacked with acid after giving evidence.

It's a weapon used by gangs "going country" to sell drugs in towns outside London. In June, a drug dealer who sold crack in Essex threw acid in the face of a gang rival in a seaside town. In 2015, London gang members who were selling drugs in Boscombe, a beach in southern England, sprayed ammonia in the faces of two men in what police described as a "drug-related crime."

"In the criminal world, to eradicate an enemy's future by disfiguring them, you are the winner. It's a horrible development."

Acid's ability to breed fear is potent. Despite suffering such terrible injuries, most victims of acid attacks do not seek justice for fear of retribution. A study carried out at a regional burns unit in Essex found only nine out of 21 victims pursued criminal charges against their attackers. According to figures released by the Met Police, three-quarters of police investigations into acid attacks are mothballed due to victims being unwilling to name the perpetrators or press charges.

Campaigners such as Shah say much stricter controls should be put in place to control the sale of strong acids and other noxious chemicals. He wants a licensing system ensuring that the details of people buying these products are recorded. There is also the option of introducing a ban on sales of acids to people under 18, using a similar law to the Intoxicating Substances Supply Act 1985, which was brought in to tackle rising glue and gas sniffing in the 1970s and 1980s.

"Acid is now a fashionable weapon of choice for criminals and gang members to exert control, to keep people in line, and for revenge attacks," said Dr. Simon Harding, a gang expert at Middlesex University. "Young gang members are always looking for a way of gaining notoriety and 'street capital.' So in the criminal world, to eradicate an enemy's future by disfiguring them, you are the winner. It's a horrible development."

Like glue and gas, if people want to get hold of acid, they will. Unfortunately, the more police clamp down on knives and guns, the more highly corrosive chemicals will be used as a method of settling disputes, spreading fear, and, in the most cowardly way possible, making a mark.

Follow Max Daly on Twitter.