Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Don't believe everything you read 

Oh wow, this sure does look like a really big story from Canadian Press: New report suggests Vancouver's safe-injection site a failure. But folks, it's tripe. Overblown, inaccurate, poorly researched, ideological tripe. Canadian Press should be ashamed of themselves.
Here's the story:
A new study suggests a safe-drug-injection site in Vancouver that has been hailed by scientists as a success is really a failure.
The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, says there are serious problems in the interpretation of findings about Insite - the first such facility in North America - which opened as a pilot project over three years ago.
. . . report author Colin Mangham, director of research with the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, refutes such claims, saying positive findings about Insite have been overstated while negative ones have been ignored.
"(The findings) give an impression the facility is successful, when in fact the research clearly shows a lack of program impact and success."
First, the study's author Colin Mangham has been publishing reports for years against "harm reduction" drug policies -- which, briefly, are policies which tolerate drug use rather than try to prevent it. The safe injection site is a prime example of just such a policy in action -- and therefore, in this man's opinion, it must be stopped. What's the harm? Well, the problem seems to be that the harm reduction "ideology" makes us "vulnerable to the drug legalization movement". Can't have that, I guess.
Second, the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice is an on-line journal which has published only two issues, with articles like "The Lure and the Loss of Harm Reduction in UK Drug Policy and Practice" and "Is it Harm Reduction Or Harm Continuation?"
Third, the Drug Prevention Network of Canada is a pretty small organization which takes a fairly conservative approach to social problems. On their website, they post articles with titles like "In defense of the drug war" and "Cannabis - A General Survey of it's (sic) harmful effects" .
Fourth, though Canadian Press acts like Mangham's article is a research study itself, it's not. It is actually a personal critique of ten research studies which Mangham says are biased, weak, overstated, misleading. Here's the list:
Wood E, Kerr T, Montaner JS, Strathdee SA, Wodak A, Hankins CA, et al. Rationale for evaluating North America’s first medically supervised safer injecting facility. Lancet 2004;4:301-6.
Wood E, Kerr T, Lloyd-Smith E, Buchner C, Marsh D, Montaner J, Tyndall M. Methodology for evaluating Insite: Canada’s first medically supervised safer injection facility for injection drug users. Harm Reduction Journal 2004; 1-5.
Wood E, Tyndall M, Li K, Lloyd-Smith E, Small W, Montaner J, Kerr T. Do supervised injecting facilities attract higher-risk injection drug users? American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2005; 29: 126-130.
Wood, E., Tyndall, M., Qui Z., Zhang, R., Montaner J., & Kerr T, Service Uptake and Characteristics of Injection Drug Users Utilizing North America’s First Medically Supervised Safer Injecting Facility. American Journal of Public Health, 2005, 5, 770-73.
Kerr T, Stoltz J, Tyndall M, Li K, Zhang R, Montaner J, Wood E. Impact of a medically supervised safer injection facility on community drug use patterns: a before and after study. BMJ 2006; 332:220-222.
Wood E, Kerr T, Stoltz J, Quia Z, Zhanga R, Montanera SG, & Tyndall MW. Prevalence and correlates of hepatitis C infection among users of North America’s first medically supervised safer injection facility. Public Health (2005) 119, 1111–1115
Wood E, Tyndall M, Stoltz J, Small W, Lloyd-Smith E, Zhang R, Montaner J, Kerr T. Factors associated with syringe sharing among users of a medically supervised safer injecting facility. American Journal of Infectious Diseases 2005, 50-54.
Wood E, Tyndall MW, Lai C, Montaner JG, & Kerr T. Impact of a medically supervised safer injecting facility on drug dealing and other drug-related crime. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2006, 1:13.
Wood E, Tyndall M, Stoltz J, Small W, Zhang R, O’Connell J, Montaner J, Kerr T. Safer injecting education for HIV prevention within a medically supervised safer injecting facility. International Journal of Drug Policy 2005; 281-284.
Kerr T, Tyndall M, Li K, Montaner J, Wood E. Safer injection facility use and syringe sharing in injection drug users. Lancet 2005; 366:316-8.
Wood E, Kerr T, Small W, Li K, Marsh D, Montaner J, et al. Changes in public order after the opening of a medically supervised safer injecting facility for illicit injection drug users. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2004; 171:731-4
Tyndall MW, Kerr T, Zhang R, King E, Montaner JG, Wood E. Attendance, drug use patterns, and referrals made from North America’s first supervised injection facility. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 83 (2006) 193–198.
Wood E et al. Attendance at Supervised Injecting Facilities and Use of Detoxification Services. New England Journal of Medicine, June 8, 2006.

Evan Wood, Mark Tyndall, Julio Montaner, and Thomas Kerr are all at UBC; Ruth Zhang, Jo-Anne Stoltz and Calvin Lai are at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, British Medical Journal? These are the top medical journals in the world.
And all these established senior researchers and highly reputable journals are just so blinded by their ideological allegiance to harm reduction that they are publishing misleading, weak research?
And Colin Mangham has found them out? Oh, sure.
If you want to read these articles for yourself, go here -- it is the "Insite For Community Safety" website which has direct links to the articles themselves.
I'm sure Canadian Press has read none of them. Nor did they call anyone from Insite or any of the researchers involved in these articles to get any response before publishing their smear article.
Now, I really don't care what people like Mangham believe or what point of view he may be trying to promote.
What bothers me is the udeserved credibility now given to this point of view by Canadian Press. This story allows people opposed to the safe injection site to proclaim righteously "it's a failure; I read it in the news".

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