March 27, 2017

Forbidden is an issue of four comics produced by The Romanian Harm Reduction Network with the support of Drugreporter as part of the national campaign to support harm reduction in Romania.

The first comic shows the brief history of war on drugs compared to the pragmatic approaches of Switzerland, Portugal and the Czech Republic. The second one is about harm reduction, drugs and the rates of infectious diseases from the 2000s until today. The third comic shows in a personal way to legal highs. The last comic is about a personal story of a man coming from a user family, getting into illegal businesses, having a baby, and trying to find his way out from the addiction.



You can download the comics here:

The illustrator Sorina Vezalina’s words about the background story of the comics:

"The project came about in the summer of 2014 when I was commissioned to create several comics investigating the effects of legal drugs in Romania. The Romanian Harm Reduction Network was trying to raise public awareness about the impact that the legal drugs had on a large number of people, whilst also raising the alarm about the accelerated rate at which HIV was spreading, owing in part to a lack of public funding.

Before the comics came together there were meetings and a hefty load of documentation to sink my thoughtful teeth into. To begin with, Romanian Harm Reduction's Valentin Simionov gave me several pointers and contacts. Together with Vlad Odobescu, a journalist from Casa Jurnalistului, we met and talked to methadone patients attending Arena, a clinic located in Bucharest, close to the Matei Balș Hospital and ARAS headquarters. We spoke to the ARAS (Asociația Română Anti-Sida) team too and went out to Carusel, an NGO situated in the neighbourhood of Ferentari which was once considered to be the most dangerous part of the city, owing to the large concentration of drug dealers and users living in that area.

Along the way we met a variety of people, all of whom had lived tangled lives and were struggling to make sense of their existence. Some of them were methadone patients, others were drug users who were dropping by to get some clean needles or condoms. We quickly realized the widely spread effects of legal drugs. There were young moms, teenagers, elderly people, adults, so there was no way of tracing a portrait of the average person who uses drugs. Therefore I decided to create several different comics, in order to tackle the multi-faceted world of addiction, starting with the war on drugs and ending with a true personal story.

Since no target audience had been specified I used different styles, from the average action comic to a Joost Swarte influenced Legal Highs. In the Legal Highs comix, for instance, I wanted to challenge the pre-conceived notion that drug user people were poor or uneducated people, that legal drugs were something minor. In order to grapple the impact of legal drugs I devised a set of characters to mirror the varied effects that these drugs had on the unaware consumer. Altogether I wanted the array of sequences to be colourful and intriguing, in order to invite the reader to look into the world of addiction with a new set of eyes."