Sunday, May 11, 2008

The "harm reduction strategy" is actually reducing harm

Is the Conservative government's drug war ideology worth the death of one drug addict a year? I guess we'll find out soon.
The Gazetteer alerts us to the likely closure of Vancouver's safe injection site, called InSite, because the federal conservatives just can't allow such a progressive approach to dealing with drug addicts.
Nope, illegal drug users should have to shoot up by themselves in dirty alleys, like they've always done. Its the Conservative way.
The government's report on InSite says they have dealt with hundreds of overdoses and haven't lost anyone. The report also indicated that statistical analysis of overdose deaths demonstrated the safe injection site likely saved the life of one drug addict a year.
So that will be the cost of closing the site. But it's pretty clear that Health minister Tony Clements is gearing up to toe the party line against the "harm reduction" strategy represented by projects like InSite -- conservatives have been trashing the harm reduction approach for years with no evidence.
In his National Post interview Clement said:
....the government's new drug strategy is focused on stopping drug use, rather than just ensuring it occurs in a safer way.
"Our harm reduction is accomplished through enforcement, our harm reduction is accomplished through prevention, our harm reduction is accomplished through treatment," said Mr. Clement.
"The best way to reduce harm is to get addicts off drugs and to provide the supports for that addict."
Well, well, quel suprise -- that's exactly what the drug injection centre does.
In the government report, buried in the tables at the end, there's a fascinating little nugget:
Among a sample of 1031 service users recruited between Dec '03 and March '05,185 (18%) reported that they began a detoxification program during a follow-up period with a median duration of 344 days. More rapid entry into detoxification programs was associated with at least weekly use of the service and contact with the facilities addiction counsellors (Wood et al., 2006c). Further analysis using retrospective and prospective database linkages with local detoxification services and residential programs indicated that the opening of INSITE was associated with a 30% increase in detoxification service use and a subsequent increase in rates of initiation of long-term addiction treatment and a decreased injecting at INSITE (Wood et al., 2007)
In other words, the InSite drug injection service has resulted in a signficant increase in the number of drug users trying to get off drugs -- at least I think a 30 per cent increase in detox admissions is pretty darn significant. This is exactly what the safe injection site was supposed to do.
Isn't that what Harper and Clement want?

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