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Why Shovel? History, Benefits, and Choices of Snow and Ice Management

History of Snow Removal

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, early snow control attempts involved citizens leveling drifts of snow to ease sleigh traffic in the 1700s. Several cities had ordinances requiring homeowners to clear their sidewalks, but streets were not cleared on a city-wide basis. Travel and the exchanging of goods, therefore, depended on individuals clearing the streets themselves. Wintertime travel in the early 1800s was mostly on foot as a result. With increased industrialization in the mid 1800s came the first snow plow, drawn by horses, and enabling transportation to recover quickly following winter storms. The snow plow created the basis for municipal responsibility in snow removal but new problems were also created, as merchants complained about the removed mounds of snow blocking their storefronts and sidewalks.

Sleigh drivers also disapproved of the ruts and uneven surface of the streets following plowing. Some cities responded by hiring shovelers to work in conjunction with the plows to haul the snow away and dump into rivers. Salt was used in a few cities but was strongly protested because it ruined the streets for sleighing and damaged the clothes and shoes of pedestrians. Following the blizzard in 1888, cities recognized the need for more organized and efficient snow removal. Rather than waiting until the storm was nearly over, city officials began to plow as the storm began, giving better results and more rapidly cleared roads. By dividing cities into sections and hiring more drivers, streets were cleared with greater efficiency.

With the advent of motorization, snow removal was revolutionized in the 20th century. Motorized plows and dump trucks arrived as early as 1913. Many cities abandoned horse-drawn carts and motorized their snow removal fleets. Caterpillar tractors equipped with plow blades were utilized, along with trucks, for plowing, while steam shovels, cranes and railway flatcars were used to haul snow away. Snow loaders also came into use in the early 1900s. As more cars took to the road, though, new problems ensued, as public safety demanded removal of even light snowfalls. Furthermore, residential streets, as well as main streets, needed clearing. Plowing left behind a slick layer of ice on the road so city officials began spreading salt by the ton. No longer concerned with protests, motorized salt spreaders became an essential tool. Later complaints of damage to vegetation and automobiles by salt led to improved salt spreaders with more efficient gauges. With so many cars on the road, shopping centers and office buildings began to see a need to clear their parking lots for employees and customers, thereby creating a specialized market. Smaller plows and snow blowers were in demand and many of these companies turned to private snow removal contractors to clear their lots.

While the introduction of motorized vehicles and subsequent technological advancements has made snow management and plowing faster, the basic process of plowing today is not much different than it was 75 years ago. Although the refinement of weather forecasting has allowed professionals to better predict and prepare for a storm, we still have to wait for the snow to fall, at which point we push it out of the way.

Why the need for snow removal?

While falling snow can be a majestic site, a parking lot, street or sidewalk of snow is hazardous and troublesome to those determined to not let a snowfall alter their day. With so many people out and about, the potential for motor vehicle accidents increases, as well as personal injury from wet and icy parking lots and sidewalks. As 90% of slips and falls occur in less than an inch of snow, it is important for businesses to manage winter conditions properly to reduce their liability. The protection of concrete and/or asphalt is an added benefit of removing snow from your property.

Liability issues The National Safety Council estimates there are approximately 300,000 injuries and more than 1,500 deaths per year as a result of wintertime weather. Premise liability laws concern a building owner’s responsibility to remove potentially dangerous conditions around their property to prevent injury to guests. This is the category of law under which accidents from ice and snow fall. Building owners are given a window of time following the end of the storm in which to clear their parking lots and sidewalks of snow and ice and to take measures preventing ice from forming in the future.

This often involves monitoring outside temperatures, if not pavement surface temperatures, and requires some form of surface treatment to aid in the prevention of ice. While many building owners hire outside companies to manage snow conditions, liability for injury is not necessarily transferred to their snow management contractors. It is important, therefore, to understand your snow removal options, research potential snow removal companies and formulate a plan that will protect you, your property, your employees and your customers. These recent verdicts against building owners and managers indicate how serious slip and fall claims can be and underscore the importance of managing snow and ice on your property in a conscientious way:

  • $475,000 awarded to a New York woman who slipped and fell on a flea market parking lot. The defendant claimed that the flea market owner and the owner of an adjoining lot were negligent in clearing their lots from a snowstorm the previous day.
  • $2 million awarded in Connecticut to a man who slipped on ice outside a hotel. The lawsuit claimed that the hotel managers were aware that the area got icy for several years but failed to correct the problem or warn pedestrians.
  • $390,000 awarded to a Philadelphia man who slipped in an icy industrial parking lot. The man claimed the industrial park’s owner allowed rainwater to drain directly on the lot and did not salt, shovel or clear ice and snow from the lot.
  • $942,000 awarded to an Omaha man who slipped on ice while stepping over a pile of snow outside a motel. The jury found that the motel’s parking lot was not sufficiently lit to reveal the icy surface.  


Effects of snow on concrete and asphalt Although concrete may appear to be a completely solid object, it actually contains numerous microscopic passageways. These tunnels are formed during the initial crystallization process as concrete is transforming from a liquid to a solid state and the needles of interlocking cement paste crystals grow. When water freezes, its volume expands by about nine percent and any water that has entered these passages can break the needles of the interlocking paste crystals. Snow left on concrete will melt and enter the tunnels only to refreeze at night and, over time, will cause cracks and potholes on your lot. Removing snow from the surface of your lot will keep the water content of the concrete down and minimize freezing damage, thereby helping to preserve your investment.

Asphalt is a mixture of tar, oil byproducts, curative and aggregate gravel spread over compacted earth and gravel for drainage. Under heat and stress from traffic, asphalt eventually cracks leaving gaps for snow and water to enter. This water freezes during winter and the resulting expansion forces dirt and gravel out, leaving a hole when the water melts again. The thin asphalt layer over the hole is left weakened and eventually collapses causing a pothole. To help prevent this unsightly and potentially damaging hazard, snow must be consistently removed from the surface. While it is impossible to keep the asphalt completely dry during and following winter storms, removing snowfall will decrease the volume of water available to seep into the cracks and will minimize freeze damage to your lot.

How surface treatments work

Snow-melt products are designed to weaken the bond between ice/snow and the ground, not to completely melt all the ice and snow that accumulates. Chemical deicers in their solid state are unable to melt anything. When they come into contact with water, however, they dissolve into liquid brine and this salt solution lowers the freezing point of water and melts ice and snow on contact. The brine spreads out under the ice and breaks the bond between ice and pavement, allowing plows to separate the ice from a surface. The melting action will continue until the brine is so diluted that the freezing point of the solution reaches ground temperature. Some surface treatment chemicals also release heat when they dissolve in water, thereby melting snow more quickly. The efficiency of the various chemicals also depends on the temperature and whether the salt needs direct contact with moisture to dissolve or if it can absorb moisture from the air. All of these factors are important to consider when selecting the best deicer for your job.

Eutectic temperature The lowest possible temperature at which deicer brine can dissolve ice is called its eutectic temperature. The eutectic temperature, however, only applies to a specific concentration of the deicer in water and no deicer is capable of staying at this concentration for long, as it continually becomes more diluted as more ice and snow is melted. As the solution gradually becomes weaker, the freezing point gradually increases. Therefore, eutectic temperatures are significantly lower than the temperature at which a deicer can be effective. For example, the eutectic temperature of sodium chloride is -6ËšF but its effective temperature is only 15ËšF. The lowest effective temperature is a more meaningful number to consider when selecting a deicing product. Be sure to research a product’s ingredients and effective temperature, as deicer manufacturers will sometimes mislead consumers by advertising the eutectic temperature on packaging without making clear what it means.

Melting capacity As temperatures drop, salt becomes less effective at melting ice and more chemical is needed to get the job done. The table below demonstrates how temperature affects the melting capacity of sodium chloride and shows that, at colder temperatures, more salt is needed to melt ice. In colder environments, choosing a chemical with a lower effective temperature allows a larger amount of snow to be melted per pound of salt.

Melting rate Melting rate is a measure of how fast melting occurs at different temperatures and, like melting capacity, the rate is influenced by temperature. 


Deicing products can, alternatively, be spread before snow falls in an effort to prevent ice from building up. Sitting on a surface, rock salt will do nothing, but as the snow falls the resulting brine prevents any bond from forming and leaves a parking lot ready to be plowed. In addition to not having to wait for ice to be broken down, the plowed surface will be cleaner than if it is plowed after ice has a chance to bond. Anti-ice applications generally involve liquids and, once they are applied, can have residual effects for several days, i.e. they will remain on the pavement if the snowstorm doesn’t hit or shows up late. When the storm does hit, pre-treating a site will reduce service time and the amount of chemical spread. Temperature can be a factor, though, as using liquids in temperatures that are too warm can leave dangerous, slippery pavements. It is, therefore, important to work with a well-trained contractor who understands these processes.

Chloride brines vs. dry salts

At colder temperatures, application results can be slow and require a large amount of chemical. In extreme cold, the addition of liquid brine to rock salt can improve chemical performance. To some, the application of a liquid to pavement seems counterintuitive and causes apprehension, but there is no question that liquid deicers melt faster and last longer than traditional salt applications. Rock salt needs to form a brine solution that is 23% salt to melt ice. Adding moisture to the dry salt before you spread it means less moisture the salt needs to come into contact with in order to begin doing its job. Furthermore, the brine sticks to the surface better than dry salts, which can be scattered by bounce, traffic and wind. Spreading pre-wetted salts uses substantially less salt overall and decreases the time spent clearing your lot.


Sand is sometimes spread with salt to improve traction but after snow and ice have melted, sandy pavement has less traction than sand-free pavement. Tests conducted by the National Safety Council have determined that salt gives as much anti-skid protection as abrasives when applied at normal deicing rates. The proper use of deicers along with the removal of snow and ice should be sufficient and eliminate the need for sand.

Environmental effects

Most environmental damage results not from the product itself, but from misapplication or improper use of the product. Many of the chemicals used for deicing are also used in agricultural applications and are not necessarily detrimental to vegetation. Danger from chemical deicers to the environment is posed when the concentration of the chemical rises to abnormally high levels in the soil. Just as fertilizers can cause die back and browning when over applied, care should be taken not to use more salt than is needed for breakup and removal of snow and ice. The best way to prevent damage is to avoid overuse and to select the most effective product for your situation. Using the most effective product means you will need less chemical to clear the same amount of ice and snow and minimize exposure to plants, trees and shrubs.

Most damage to concrete from chemical deicers is not from the chemicals themselves but from the effects of freezing and thawing. By lowering the freezing point of water, deicers can increase the number of freeze-thaw cycles and add to the problem. When temperatures fluctuate between 10ËšF and 20ËšF, plain water will remain frozen. A deicing brine of rock salt and water, however, will freeze when the temperature drops below 15ËšF and thaw when it rises above 15ËšF resulting in more freeze-thaw cycles than if no deicer had been applied. For this reason, it is important to consider the lowest effective temperature when selecting a chemical deicer. It is also important to remove the snow once the deicer has broken the bond with the pavement. Removing the snow leaves less water available to seep into holes of the concrete.

Green alternative

Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) was developed in response to concerns of the effects of salt on vegetation and the concrete of structures such as bridges and parking lots. In the 1970s, the Federal Highway Administration identified CMA as the only low-corrosion chemical alternative to road salt. It is approximately as corrosive as tap water and is biodegradable in soil. CMA can increase soil permeability, may improve plant growth and is unlikely to reach groundwater but it does come at a price: it costs approximately 30 times more than rock salt. While some environmentally sensitive situations require the use of CMA, many of the traditional chemical deicers pose no threat when applied at proper rates.

Snow relocation

This practice involves loading snow into dump trucks and hauling it to another location and can be an important management tool for your business. Rather than plowing snow into huge piles in the middle of your parking lot, taking up valuable space in some instances, snow can be hauled away to another site to melt. Piles of dirty snow can be unattractive, hide business signs and storefronts and create hazardous trails of melted snow which then refreeze when the temperature drops. By removing snow off the lot, you can provide a safe, clear site, reduce obstructions and increase pavement areas.

Snow removal contractors

The Better Business Bureau provides these tips on hiring a snow removal contractor:

  • Get several estimates and remember that the least expensive service is not necessarily the best.
  • Be sure you understand the price options and are aware of any additional charges. Do they charge based on inches of snow fallen or a flat rate per season? How does the company determine the size of the snowfall? Are there sometimes additional charges during large storms?
  • Find out what is included in the estimate, such as sidewalks, steps and the cost of salt? Will the area be cleared during the storm as well as after? Are there additional charges if the contractor has to come back?
  • Ask for references and check them out.
  • Check the BBB reliability report on the company you are planning on using.
  • Make sure you get a written contract and the company provides proof that they are insured and bonded. Ask who you can contact regarding any damages, such as cracked driveways, and how you can terminate the agreement if necessary.  


Deicing products

Deicing materials vary greatly and can range from the familiar rock salt to liquid chemicals. The type of material used depends on availability, environmental factors and effectiveness with regard to speed or temperature. No matter which chemical you use to manage snow, it takes time for it to go into solution and melt ice, regardless of how much is applied. Understanding the deicer you choose and its chemical properties can prevent over-applying, protecting your property and saving you money. While by no means exhaustive, here are some of the commonly used treatments:

Sodium chloride: Known as rock salt, this is the most commonly used product because of its low cost and effectiveness at moderately cold temperatures. It is easy to secure and requires no special handling or storing procedures. Sodium chloride requires heat in order to “go into solution,” which it absorbs from the air and the pavement, thus making it an effective ice-melting agent. One drawback to sodium chloride is that it must come into direct contact with moisture in order to dissolve so it does require more time to be effective than other chemicals, such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. The lowest effective temperature is 15F.

Calcium chloride: Calcium chloride is probably the second most commonly used deicer. It is exothermic, meaning it releases heat as it goes into solution, and therefore works more quickly than sodium chloride. Furthermore, instead of requiring direct contact with moisture to dissolve, calcium chloride readily attracts moisture from the air, enabling it to begin working more quickly. It is also effective at lower temperatures (as low as -20F) and is relatively harmless to plants and soil. The drawback to calcium chloride is that, because of its ability to attract moisture from the air, it requires special storage procedures to prevent it from reacting before it can be spread. Furthermore, calcium chloride can create wet pavements and slippery conditions when not applied properly.

Magnesium chloride: This salt is also exothermic but has less heat-release capability. It is, therefore, more efficient than sodium chloride, though not as effective as calcium chloride. It can be used in temperatures as low as 0F and is less toxic to plants and less corrosive than sodium chloride. However, like calcium chloride, it requires special storage procedures due to its ability to attract moisture. This compound is used in its crystal form for businesses and sidewalks but a number of highway departments have increased their use of liquid magnesium chloride as a deicer and an anti-icer. The liquid compound is spread on dry pavement before precipitation or on wet pavement before freezing temperatures to prevent snow and ice from bonding with the roadway.

Potassium acetate: A biodegradable liquid deicer that is less aggressive on soil and less corrosive. It is, therefore, preferred for airport runways but is not often used in other markets due to its high cost. Potassium acetate can be applied in temperatures as low as -15F making this compound effective at colder temperatures.

Calcium magnesium acetate: Developed as an environmentally friendly alternative to road salt, calcium magnesium acetate is the safest chemical for concrete and vegetation as it is approximately as corrosive as tap water. The cost, however, is about 30 times more than rock salt. The effective melting temperature is approximately 20F.

Potassium chloride, ammonium sulfate and urea: Commonly used as fertilizer, these three chemicals are occasionally used as deicers. All three are corrosive and have an effective temperature of 20F.

Copyright © 2010 Team Green Outdoor Inc. All rights reserved.

Heroin – Use and Abuse

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug and the most rapidly acting of the opiates. Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants.

Heroin is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known on the streets as ‘black tar heroin’. Most street heroin is cut with other drugs or substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk etc. Typically, in Malta heroin or as it is better know ‘smack’ is sold in paper packets, not more than a finger nail in size, at Lm10 each. Heroin abusers never know the actual strength of the drug and so are always at risk of overdose or death. Other problems stemming out of heroin use is the transmission of HIV and other diseases that occur from sharing needles

How is heroin used?

Heroin is usually injected, sniffed or smoked. A heroin addict may typically inject up to four times a day. Intravenous injections provide the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of euphoria, (7 to 8 seconds) while intramuscular injection provides a relatively slow onset of euphoria (5 to 8 minutes) Heroin that is sniffed or smoked does not produce a rush and its peak effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes

(Adapted from the National Institute of Drug Abuse)

According to NIDA researchers all three forms of heroin administration are addictive. The short term and immediate effects of heroin use are the rush, depressed respiration, clouded mental functioning, nausea and vomiting and suppression of pain. (Parker, 2002a:15) After the injection or inhalation, heroin crosses the blood barrier and is converted to morphine in the brain. That is when abusers report a rush. “Take the best orgasm you’ve ever had. Multiply it by a thousand and you’re still nowhere near.” This quote taken from the book and film ‘Trainspotting’ by Irvine Welsh best describes the heroin induced bliss addicts feel. Heroin is particularly addictive as it enters the brain so rapidly. ‘The rush is then accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth and a heavy feeling in the extremities which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and severe itching. ‘(Parker, 2002b:15) The long term effects are addiction, infectious diseases for example, HIV and hepatitis B and C , collapsed veins, bacterial infections, abscesses, infection of heart lining and valves , arthritis and other rheumatologic problems. (Parker, 2002c: 16)

Addiction is the most detrimental long term effects of heroin. Addiction is chronic, relapsing disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use and by neuro chemical and molecular changes in the brain. Like abusers of all other drugs, heroin users gradually spend more and more time and energy obtaining and using the drug. The heroin abusers’ primary purpose in life becomes seeking and using the drug.

‘Junk is not like alcohol or weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.’ (Burroughs, 1953a)

Physical dependence develops with higher doses of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped abruptly. Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting, cold flashes (where the term cold turkey comes from) and leg movements. Physical dependence and the emergence of withdrawal symptoms were once thought to be the key features of heroin addiction. But cravings and relapse can occur weeks and months after withdrawal symptoms are long gone. This may be because the patient in pain is simply seeking relief and not the rush sought by the addict.

The Socio- Psychological explanation of its use.

There is no characteristic personality style that can be called ‘the addictive personality’. However, there are common personality traits, symptoms, and psychodynamic factors that occur in clusters of addicted persons. Many psychologists have come up with theories to try to explain addiction.

Stanton et al.’s (1982) findings about symptom function in families of drug addicts, (heroin):

1. The regressive heroin euphoria, which is characterized by infantile fusion with the mother, permits the addict a symbolic reunification with the mother and family of childhood. The drug’s blunting effects permit the addict to feel distant from overwhelming fears of incorporation while maintaining an illusory intimacy. This is true of other depressant drugs.

2. Heroin produces a sense of power and omnipotence that may unleash aggression towards family members, especially parents. This rage enables the addict to feel temporarily autonomous and freed from family bonds. The addicts chosen life is also a defiant ‘quantum leap’ from that of the family.

3. The regressive, sexually equivalent heroin high, and the resultant ‘ripping and running’ lifestyle, prevent the male addict from developing lasting and intimate relationships particularly with women. In the latter stages of addiction, drug use eradicates the sex drive.

4. As a result of the first three factors as well as underlying narcissistic personality, addicts form only pseudo families of procreation.”(Kaufman, 1994a:10)

Milkman and Frosch (1973) found a difference between heroin addicts and amphetamine abusers who had abused both drugs and experienced a preference for one of the two. For those whose choice of drug was heroin suffer from depression and despair, and relived anxiety by withdrawal from others and repression of conflict through satiation by the drug. In a later work, Milkman and Frosch (1980) emphasized the heroin addicts’ need to relive sporadic rage with opiates. Khantazian (1979) noted the specific muting and stabilizing effects of narcotics on rage and aggression. In a study of 200 heroin addicts, he also found developmental deficiencies that led to outbursts of rage, poor impulse control and dysphoria. Heroin then moderated the threat their violent feelings posed to themselves and others. On opiates, they experienced a sensation of total physical relief, which they described as mellow and calm. (Kaufman, 1994b:26)

Heroin users usually belong to a sub culture. Both heavy heroin users and controlled heroin users are bound together in small isolated groups that develop idiosyncratic, rigid rituals and social sanctions. These groups are always very fragile and drug centered. Compulsive users and controlled users rituals are usually the same. In both groups, people squabble over who gets off first, belts are used as ties and so on. The addict’s ritual is an expression of wistful identification and the outlaw’s bold stance is attractive to them.

Media, films, music and stars have in the past few decades put the spotlight on heroin use and have in some way added to its glamour. In the mid 1990′s a waif looking, emaciated, drug addicted look was popular in the fashion world. Pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes and jutting bones were seen on the runaway models showcasing the ‘heroin chic’ look. Calvin Klein ads featured these looks in 1997. Fashion designers, model Kate Moss and movies such as ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ were blamed for glamorizing the heroin chic look and life style. The heroin chic fashion provided much controversy. In 1997, Bill Clinton felt he had to voice his opinion on this. President Clinton decried ‘heroin chic’ fashion photography, for sending a message that using the once feared drug is ‘glamorous’ or ‘sexy’. Clinton speaking about US drug policy took note of recent admissions by magazine editors that the ‘wasted addict’ look in some fashion layouts had glamorized heroin use. He continued to say that the glorification of heroin was not creative but destructive. It was not about art. Clinton continued to say that while cocaine use had declined, heroin use had gone up and he said that part of the reason was ‘the images that are finding their way to young people’. David Sorrenti, a fashion photographer, who used these images, died aged 20 of a heroin overdose when Clinton made these remarks to the press.

Long before this 1997 incident, heroin has been the main protagonist of lyrics, books and deaths. The first book to be written on heroin was by Thomas De Quincy – Confessions of an Opium Eater in the 18th century. The Beat Generation, mostly William Burroughs, wrote very important books on the subject. The most famous is ‘Junky’, which is autobiographical. Through out the years, we have witnessed many fatal overdoses in the show business, both in the movie world like River Phoenix, a promising young actor and numerous other deaths in music bands.

If we analyze the lyrics of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground in the song with the self explanatory title, “Heroin”, we notice that like many authors writing on heroin, it is the centre and all of addict’s life.; ‘it’s my wife and it’s my life’, ‘ because when the smack begins to flow, I really don’t care anymore’ The calming effect and the pain relief that heroin produces to its users is crystal clear in these lyrics, from the way it effects the brain and blood and the immense effect on the person’s thoughts and sense of being. Many post- Woodstock artists have penned songs on heroin. Some songs written about heroin: Neil Young : The Needle and the Damage Done, Rolling Stones : Dead Flowers, Red Hot Chilli Peppers : Under The Bridge, Velvet Underground : Heroin, Guns N’ Roses : Mr Brownstone, The La’s: There She Goes, Dandy Warhols : Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, Wolfsheim : Heroin, Velvet Underground : Waiting for the Man, The Ramones : Chinese Rock, Lou Reed : Perfect Day, Pink Floyd : Comfortably Numb, U2 : Heroin and The Stranglers : Golden Brown:

“Golden brown texture like sun
lays me down WITH my mind she runs
throughout the night

No need to fight
never a frown with golden brown”

The Social Correlates and Consequences

In Malta not only trafficking but also possession of illicit drugs is a criminal offence. All drug users, because of possession run the risk of criminal charges. In 2003 the drug squad made 597 arrests of 528 persons. 74% of these were only for possession whilst 22% where for possession and trafficking. These were mostly for heroin and cannabis. (The National Focal Point for Drugs and Drug Addiction)

30% of Malta’s prison population is charged or sentenced for drug law offences. All inmates are tested for drugs on admission. 50% tested positive for drugs. The main drug of use was heroin, with a staggering 81%. (2004 National Report: Malta Drug Situation)

Many heroin users suffer from dual diagnosis, where a person has both a drug problem as well as an emotional/psychiatric problem. To recover fully, the person needs treatment for both problems. The most common problems are depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and in some cases even the onset of schizophrenia and personality disorders. What develops first? Most times it is the psychiatric problem that develops first, in other episodes drug dependency is the main condition and then may develop into psychiatric conditions.

In 2003, there were approximately 1,200 persons with heroin problems, in treatment- 1,000 of these are problem users based on the criterion of daily heroin use. About 700, from this client population are in substitution treatment, taking methadone for a period of three months or longer. (2004 National Report: Malta Drug Situation)

The National Focal Point for Drugs and Drug Addiction believe that there are around 350 unknown injecting drug users. About 80% of heroin users inject. Syringe data indicates that approximately 220,000 syringes were distributed in 2003. The mean age of treatment clients with a heroin or cocaine problem is usually around five years older than those with a cannabis problem. Data from heroin clients treated for the first time in 2003 showed that they started taking heroin at around 19. The mean age in 2003 was 28 years. 86% were male clients. (2004 National Report: Malta Drug Situation)

Heroin clients are the most problematic. 71% are daily users, with 63% injecting. The majority of clients who use detox are heroin users, making up 85%.

Legal Aspect and punishment

The Dangerous Drugs Ordinance controls possession and dealing in narcotics, including equipment or material used for drug production. Part II of the law forbids importation and exportation of opium. It covers offences for manufacturing, selling or dealing or usage. The law also specifies dealing as including cultivation. Penalties for trafficking are severe especially if it occurs within 100 metres of a school, youth centre of if it supplied to a minor, pregnant woman or to a person undergoing rehabilitation. (Chapter 101 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance)

Punishment is set out in the said ordinance. The court of Magistrates is competent to try out all offences against the Ordinance. The Attorney General has a right to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal from any judgment given by the Court of Magistrates in respect of criminal proceedings arising out of the provisions of this Ordinance. The Criminal Court hands out from twelve months to ten years plus a fine not exceeding Lm10000 for possession. For selling and dealing, the Criminal Court may give a life sentence, the only exception being when the verdict is not unanimous and when the age of the offender, previous conducts, quantity and nature of drug or social circumstances ask for this measure. In this case court may give a sentence ranging from four to thirty years plus a fine between lm1000 and lm50000. When the case is tried in the Magistrates court, punishment is less severe. For possession one may get three to twelve month’s imprisonment or/plus a fine of not more than Lm1000. For selling and dealing one can be sentenced from six months to ten years plus a fine between Lm200 and Lm5000. For the crime of trafficking there is life imprisonment plus forfeiture of property. In the case of cultivation the court may confiscate property used for cultivation.

The punishment increases if the trafficking/selling occurred near a school or involved minors or pregnant women. Probation and suspended sentences are only rewarded in the case of possession. In the case of possession of drugs by foreigners, they are not persecuted if they surrender drugs to customs officials and it is obvious from quantity it was for their own use only.

Heroin addicts that are sentenced to Corradino Correctioal Facility can benefit from the rehabilitation programme offered by SATU (Substance Abuse Therapeutic Unit) which is at Mtahleb or Caritas which also has a prison inmate programme based at Bahar ic – Caghaq. In both cases, prisoners can avail themselves of these services in the last two years of their sentences


No specific treatment is valid for all drugs addicts. It is important that treatment is matched to each individual’s particular problems and moods. Treatment has to meet the individual’s needs. To be effective it has to address the addict’s drug use which may be linked to medical, social, vocational or other problems.

(Adapted from NIDA concerning drug abuse treatment entitled ‘Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A research- based Guide)

Counselling (individual or group) and other behavioral therapies are critical components of effective treatment for addiction. In therapy, patients address issues of motivation, build skills to resist drug use, replace drug using activities with constructive and rewarding non drug using activities and improve problem solving abilities.

Medications are also an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counselling and other behavioral therapies. Methadone and levo-alpha-acetylmethdaol (LAAM) are very effective in helping individuals addicted to heroin to stabilize their lives and reduce their illicit drug use. (Parker, 2002d:168) In Malta, the majority of heroin abusing clients are seen at the Detox centre, while 29% in community services and 20% in rehabilitation programmes. (National Report-Malta Drug Situation 2004)

Medical detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long term drug use. There are many types of treatments available. There are out patient drug free treatments, long term residential treatments, short term residential treatment and medical detoxification. When treating criminal drug abusers and addicts there are two effective ways, prison based treatment and community based treatment. Research shows that combining criminal justice sanctions with drug treatment can be effective in decreasing drug use and related crime.

In Malta Caritas and Sedqa offer nearly identical services for heroin addicts. There is also Oasi in Gozo offering a residential rehabilitation service. Caritas and Sedqa both offer outreach and rehabilitation programmes. They also offer information for parents and children and counselling for all the family.

Can America and China Become True Allies?

Many economists, military analysts and security experts all have seen a new nation advancing on the military, economic and technological spectrum. The nation is the People’s Republic of China. China has a population greater than the U.S., which totals 1.3 billion, compared to the U.S.’s population of just 330 million. China’s GDP is expected to exceed the U.S.’s in the near future. Moreover, China has the largest cash surplus in the world, allowing it to invest heavily in defense, infrastructure, and research and development.

Back in the 1970s, the big threat to U.S. security was not China, it was the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the U.S. used a strategy of containment against the Soviet Union. The U.S. was particularly alarmed about the Soviet Union’s influence in its neighbors and other countries. The U.S. implemented many strategies to prevent the spread of communism. Ultimately, the U.S.’s answer to Soviet expansion was NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). NATO’s key role was to keep all of Europe and Canada as one united military alliance. Furthermore, it was to prevent the Soviet Union from gaining control on these nation’s governments. The Soviet Union later countered with the Warsaw Pact.

In 1991, the Soviet Union had collapsed. The Soviet government’s economy was in disarray and they were locked out from other international markets. Capitalism later slowly moved into Eastern European economies. NATO later expanded into Eastern Europe pressing on the Russian Federation’s borders. In response to this threat, Russia formed the Collectible Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) the successor to the Warsaw Pact. Many former Soviet states joined this military alliance, trying to recreate the Soviet Union’s original borders.

The strategy that the U.S. used against the Soviet Union and is currently using against China, is not a new concept. The British Empire took this approach in the past as well. In the 1930s, Britain had a colossal problem. The world economy was in a depression and British naval superiority allowed it to still control the seas, although its finances were a mess and its man power was in decline. In the mid 1930s, Britain was beginning to become apprehensive about its neighbor. Nazi Germany had a massive population, and their new leader Adolf Hitler was speaking out about his anger towards his neighbors and certain groups of people. British military and foreign policy experts decided on using containment to stop Hitler. A war in the short-term for Britain would have been a catastrophe. It would have cost Britain too many lives and financially would have put Britain in more danger. Britain formed a military alliance with Poland, then later with France, Belgium, Netherlands, Romania and Greece. Nazi Germany later responded to this alliance, their response would be the start of one of the deadliest wars in the history of this planet.

Presently, the U.S. is the world’s predominant superpower. It is sometimes called the “Modern Day British Empire”. In reality, the U.S. is implementing the same containment strategies that the British used in the 1930s. The major problem is that today the U.S. is using this old strategy, to prevent China from expanding. Currently, the U.S does not have a single enemy that is an armed, stable nation-state with military capabilities of the same magnitude of itself. Therefore, the U.S is making sure that China does not become that nation. Why won’t the U.S. allow China to have similar military capabilities? Does the U.S. feel that no other nation should become a world superpower? Shouldn’t the U.S. allow China to enhance it naval capabilities to defend its Eastern coastline?

The U.S. successfully used containment to slowly chip away at the Soviet Union, which ultimately succeeded. Currently, the U.S. is trying to prevent China from becoming too powerful, ultimately into a world superpower. The U.S currently has an alliance with Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan, Afghanistan, India and Mongolia. Furthermore, the U.S. has troops deployed in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Afghanistan, Australia, Singapore and the Philippines. This strategy has China’s foreign influence constrained and quarantined.

Events in the past, such as the South China Sea incident in 2009 and the Hainan Island incident are a direct consequence of this containment strategy. For example, the Soviet Union had an economy that was not internationally accessible. China on the other hand, has an extremely universal and international economy. The Soviet Union had virtually no Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into it; China has the largest on the planet. Furthermore, the Chinese have immense manufacturing capabilities, one of the most efficient systems on the face of the earth. The Soviets failed to manufacture large enough quantities of goods to sell to the world. If the U.S. used this same strategy against China, would it really force China to implode like the Soviet Union did? Would China’s trading partners allow the Chinese economy to fail? If the Chinese government/economy failed, what would the cost be to the world economy?

In order for China to view the U.S. as a potential ally, both nations have to recognize each other as partners instead of rivals. How would China accept the U.S. as a true partner, especially if it has other chief allies? NATO and The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) would still be viewed as the U.S.’s primary allies. In the eyes of China, NATO/ANZUS will be seen as America’s only priority and China will view them as a major obstacle. The U.S would have to either withdraw or reorganize NATO/ANZUS, which would involve the U.S. streamlining it, so it doesn’t have to pose a direct threat to the Russian Federation and potentially China. Moreover, the U.S. would create more permanent members of NATO/ANZUS. This strategy would show the Russian Federation and China that NATO/ANZUS has no interest in expanding further eastward. At the same time, China would view them as a reliable and steady alliance system with limited expansion. NATO/ANZUS’s expansion could eventually anger the Russian Federation and China to a point, where it may use the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to isolate the U.S.

The U.S. must fully comprehend that the entire containment strategy against China is viewed by the Chinese, as a serious threat to their national security. The arming of Taiwan is increasing infuriating China. Furthermore, American military facilities in Japan, South Korea and Afghanistan are increasingly irritating China. There has been a discussion about more naval exercises by the U.S. military being conducted in the South China Sea. Some military experts believe that the U.S. may also consider moving military facilities into other former Soviet-states next door to China. If this were to occur, it would only further agitate the Chinese.

The overall best strategy for the U.S. would be initially, to stop arming Taiwan. This strategy would allow the Chinese to realize that the U.S. is not trying to prevent Chinese influence into Taiwan. If a war did break out between China and Taiwan; would the U.S. try to rescue Taiwan? What would the cost be for the U.S.? The U.S. should consider restructuring its military presence in Japan and South Korea; this would show China that U.S. military presence has no intention to potentially harm China.

Currently, the U.S. military has the most highly developed, versatile and lethal military on the planet. However, China is drastically upgrading their military capabilities. China is upgrading their naval, air and land units to a degree where they will become comparable to American-made units in the near future. The U.S. is facing a gigantic problem regarding military weaponry and units, which is the illegal copying of American-made military equipment. China is able to reverse-engineer and successfully rebuild American aircraft, engines, and other weapons. This is seen by the U.S. government as a serious concern. In reality, is China doing it to defend themselves from the U.S.’s policies of containment? A good analogy would be if China had military bases in Cuba, Canada and Mexico. Do you think the U.S would be copying Chinese-made weapons? Would the U.S. be concerned about its national security?

An added concern regarding hostilities between both nations, is the chance of cyber-warfare becoming a persistent problem. Cyber warfare is a gargantuan setback for both the U.S. and China. Cyber attacks occur daily between both nations. At the moment, cyber warfare exists on the internet, an abstract information superhighway. What if one day the internet had the capabilities to alter the function of physical equipment/facilities? The ultimate fear is; how infrastructure or military applications would be reprogrammed if an attack occurred? What if a cyber attack occurred on a nuclear facility or military unit carrying an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) or tactical nuclear weapon?

The U.S. will eventually have to recognize China as an ally and a partner, not a military rival. If the U.S. had China as an ally, many humanitarian and counter-terrorism missions would be aided by China. The Chinese army would give the U.S. army needed backup support. What if other humanitarian/natural disasters occurred somewhere in the world, would the U.S. have enough soldiers? How many U.S. soldiers are currently deployed in counter- terrorism/counter-drug operations throughout the world? How many Chinese forces are deployed in these operations around the world?

A beneficial concept for the U.S and China; would be the implementation of encouraging joint military exercises with each other. These would occur in international waters, U.S. waters and Chinese waters. The U.S. would allow China to lease/use U.S. military bases/facilities. At the same time, the Chinese would give the same option to the U.S. A relationship in which these two nations collaborated would not only benefit the U.S./China relationship, but would benefit nations all throughout Asia. It would create increased security in the Asia-Pacific region. U.S./China naval capabilities would conduct joint operations countering terrorism, human/drug trafficking, whaling and increasing port security (chiefly in the Golden Triangle). Eventually, other nations will see the benefits and join these operations.

In regards to economics, many economists would argue that the manipulation of China’s currency could lead to a trade war and potentially exacerbate a conflict between the U.S and China. That is only if both nations remain antagonistic towards one another.

Some economic experts believe that a potential North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entity and the European Union (EU) could merge to enhance both western economies considerably. The theory behind this would be to directly challenge to China’s impending economic preeminence over the western world. As a matter of fact, this theory may actually backfire and enrage China even more, potentially to the point where it is seen as a direct threat to China’s economic dominance and national security.

Many believe that China and the U.S. should not allow each other to invest in one another. These people believe that it could increase espionage and counterfeiting of products. In actuality, these people are dead wrong. Both the U.S. and China need to greatly increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into each other. The U.S. would benefit considerably from China investing in its companies, government, military and infrastructure. Moreover, the U.S. would allow investment to repair/maintain/build its schools, hospitals, electric grids, nuclear power plants, streets, bridges, tunnels, refineries, railroads etc. This would ultimately give the U.S. the extra capital needed to continue to expand its infrastructure and further the nations Human Development Index (HDI). Additionally, China would receive massive investment from the U.S. Take a look at basic history; did Nazi Germany and Britain invest in each other in the mid 1930s? Did China and Japan invest in each other in the 1920s? Regrettably no, we all now what the outcome was.

A common argument that people make is, only the U.S. imports oil from the Middle East. In reality, over the next decade China will surpass the U.S. in oil imports from the Middle East. Yes, China will face the same colossal problem; it needs to become energy independent more than the U.S.! Together, both nations will have the capabilities to decrease their dependence on foreign oil by collaborating in the private and public sectors. Advancements will occur in solar/wind technologies, artificial intelligence, surveillance, nanotechnology, battery technology and other technologies. These two nations would have companies and local governments jointly working together in research facilities to create new technologies that will benefit all of humanity over the long term.

So, can these two nations really be allies even if they are both the biggest economic rivals? The answer is yes. The U.S. and China both deeply rely on each other so much, that they would have to allow this system to function. American companies outsource work to China to reduce their labor costs. Simultaneously, China sells these products to the U.S. Furthermore, China has the ability to keep purchasing U.S. debt because it relies on the reserve currency and believes it is an established and dependable currency. These actions by China, eventually allow the U.S. to borrow astonishing amounts of money. What would happen to the world economy, if this economic relationship collapsed? Can this system of trade/finance really be put to a complete halt?

A new policy for both nations must to be proposed imminently. Currently both nations are rapidly moving towards a potential military altercation. The policy of containment has historically created wars. If a military clash were to occur; how many people could potentially become casualties? What implications would it have on the U.S., Chinese and world economy? What if the U.S. were ultimately to lose the war? What reparations would the U.S. have to pay? (Remember the U.S. has a massive trade deficit and a national debt that it owes to China.) This new policy would give the U.S. guaranteed security, peace, a balanced budget and new technologies in the future. It would prevent China and the U.S. from becoming adversaries and allow them to become reliable, ethical and dependable partners. In the end, this new policy would end a bitter conflict that unfortunately, may be inevitable.