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July 02, 2001 09:19am
Dutch Launch Glossy Mag for Female Junkies
Source: Reuters
by: Abigail Levene

(AMSTERDAM) -- ``Vogue'' it ain't. But ``Mainline Lady,'' a new Dutch glossy magazine for female drug addicts, is perhaps the ultimate in heroin chic.

Stuffed with tips on fashion, sex, beauty and health -- the stock-in-trade of women's journals the world over -- the new magazine bears a passing resemblance to its more staid sisters.

But ``Mainline Lady,'' financed by the Dutch health ministry, is definitely no mainstream publication.

Its fashion model is Shauna, a tattooed recovering addict. The sex section recounts recollections of a junkie prostitute. The beauty rubric counsels on countering drug-induced dry skin, and ``Dear Doctor'' deals with HIV (news - web sites) hazards for syringe users.

Wijnie, a 38-year-old cocaine and heroin addict from Amsterdam, gets a hair and face make-over. An HIV-positive former convict talks about her grim experiences in prison.

The magazine is the brainchild of the Mainline foundation, a 10-year-old non-governmental organization that works to improve the health and quality of life of drug users.

Mainline has published a general news sheet for drug users for a decade. It decided to create the glossy after women clamored for something to address their specific needs.

``Female users are not just skinny hags. They have lots of interests, and that's what we wanted to reflect in the magazine,'' editor-in-chief Jasperine Schupp told Reuters.

Schupp said women had welcomed the magazine, which is being distributed free by Mainline across the Netherlands. If the pilot -- circulation 5,000 -- is successful, further issues will be published.

``Our readers' surveys have found that leaflets about drug use and risks are not widely read,'' said Schupp. ``If you want to sell your message, you've got to package it right.''


Humor -- albeit distinctly black -- comes in the form of a cartoon with the punning title of ``hevig huishouden,'' offering tongue-in-cheek tips to bored housewives.

``Huishouden'' means either to keep house, or to wreak havoc.

The cartoon depicts a fishnet-stockinged, ghoulishly grinning housewife ironing her silver foil. By her feet is a washing basket overflowing with used syringes; over her head, washed condoms hang out to dry.

``Have a weekly condom washday,'' is one tip. ``Experiment with new drugs, then test them on your clients'' it suggests, or ''Sharpen your syringes regularly -- it's good for the environment.''

Horoscopes are also on offer. Capricorn promises luck in love, advising: ``Make sure you have enough condoms.'' Cancer promises ``your dope will taste better than usual'' and Libras are assured their doctor will ``for once understand what your problem is, instead of just prescribing methadone again.''

The poignant horoscope for Gemini points up the difference, however, between ``Mainline Lady'' and mainstream women's magazines with their relentless emphasis on slimming.

``At last you'll manage to put on a bit of weight,'' it says.

Much of ``Mainline Lady'' makes grueling reading. Tales of drug-fueled prostitution and abuse, AIDS (news - web sites) and hepatitis infection, jostle for space in the 31-page glossy.

Perhaps the saddest piece is ``Times Past,'' where childhood photographs of three grown-up addicts flank first-person descriptions of their lives in their carefree, drug-free days.

``When I look at this photo, I think: ``If only I could live my life from that moment over again. Then I didn't have any scars and I looked great,'' recounts Thilene, whose picture shows her smiling at the age of nine.

Despite its no-holds-barred exposure of the emotional and physical toll that drug abuse takes on women, the magazine does not urge readers to fight their addictions.

``We treat people like adults, offering them information so they can make healthy choices,'' said Schupp. ``Getting them to kick the habit is not our first priority.''

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