This is a difficult question to ask, but does giving needles and pipes to people addicted to drugs really help them? Or does it 'help', or 'protect' the community? As we continue to be alarmed about the volume of tax dollars and what those monies are spent on, the report of spending $118,000 in public funds on drug paraphernalia in downtown Vancouver is disturbing.
An Oct. 3 story in the Vancouver Courier titled "Downtown Eastside crack kits working, says health chief" reported about the mass distribution of 65,299 crack cocaine smoking kits.
The story claimed it "did not trigger more drug activity, but reduced burns to crack smokers and decreased the reliance on used smoking equipment."
Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical health officer, Dr. Patricia Daly, examining the results of the 13-month evaluation of 4,213 crack smokers, told the Courier: "Their behaviour indicates that they're involved in less high-risk behaviour and that might reduce some of their infection risks associated with crack smoking."
Some important facts are missing from this conversation. Is there a reduction of cocainerelated charges as a result of handing out kits? Less reduction of infections? Is drug use declining? Or, that there just might be fewer charges simply because drug users are sitting in their rooms, using, and don't need to leave to find kits to use the drugs? Is this what we're calling a "success" now? That drug-users don't get burned or cut while ingesting drugs that destroy their lives and tear at the heart of a community? This is either wilful blindness, or massive hypocrisy. When did we stop thinking that quitting drugs was true success? We are collectively kidding ourselves if we think that distributing crack pipes and needles to those hopelessly addicted to illicit drugs is actually helping the addicts. We should ask if it's even humane.
Let's not pretend we're doing this to help people. We're doing it to reduce costs in health care, and crime. We're giving them what they want so they won't go out and steal to get drugs, and keeping them high.
The truth is that this current mindset is really all about harm reduction for the community, not the affected individual. It's not helping any addicts kick the habit.
Contrast that with our response to addiction when it comes to nicotine in cigarettes, proven to be one of the most difficult drugs of all to quit. National and civic anti-smoking campaigns against addiction to cigarettes have been very aggressive and successful, for several reasons. It begins with the premise that quitting is the goal. We tell people to get medical help, to get a counsellor, to join a support group and don't stop trying till it works. We confront the addict at every turn with the health consequences of continuing to smoke. As a result we have had outstanding success getting people into recovery from that addiction. We are shameless about demanding people stop.
Why wouldn't we use the same tactics to tackle illicit drug use, which, in addition to its obvious initial health concerns, causes serious long-term permanent damage, and often, and likely, death? It's time to re-set the conversation and remind ourselves about hard-core drug people. We need to help people stop using drugs, just like we do with smoking.
Not enable them.
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