When it comes to the availability of crack pipe kits in Nanaimo, Island Health has not done a mass distribution of the harm reduction kits, but they are available for pickup at locations throughout Vancouver Island. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control distributes the kits - which include a mouthpiece and a push stick - to health authorities throughout the province.
The mouthpieces are small sections of plastic tubing that can be purchased at any hardware store.
Combined with the wooden stick - which resembles a chop stick - the tools have been shown to reduce the transmission of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.
Island Health estimates that a single case of hepatitis C can ultimately cost the health care system as much as $250,000.
It has been estimated that as many as 70 per cent of street drug users are consumers of crack cocaine.
The highly-addictive drug is commonly inhaled through a glass tube while being heated with a flame at the opposite end.
According to police in Nanaimo, crack cocaine use remains one of the most visible challenges on the city's streets.
The use of drugs like crack and methamphetamine can lead to the telltale physical indicators of addiction.
That does not mean there are more crack users out there than those who are addicted to other drugs, like heroin, said Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O'Brien. "We've certainly changed, the RCMP and police services on the front line - we're not treating it simply as an enforcement issue," he said.
One strategy employed by police has been to increase dialogue with people on the street, predominantly in the form of their bicycle units.
The method of consumption is what can lead to the chronic cuts, wounds, blisters and burns that are often seen on the lips of the drug's regular users.
Open lip sores can also lead to other communicable diseases, like tuberculosis.
In a May of 2012 presentation, officials with the health authority described harm reduction as an opportunity to reduce health costs and risks to the health of the community.
Harm reduction does not promote drug use, they stressed.
The efforts focus on those "who are unable or unwilling to stop."
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