Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jul 2001
Source: Mission City Record (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 The Mission City Record
Author: Gillian Arsenault
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Editor, The Record:

I have been following with interest the Fraser Valley Health Region 
newspapers' letters to the editor discussions on needle exchange services. 
I would like to support correspondents who have raised the following points:

1. Needle exchange services and other harm reduction services are 
necessary, but not sufficient. By themselves, needle exchange and other 
harm reduction services will not, and should not be expected to, cure drug 
addiction. However, (compared to) harm reduction services, drug addiction 
does much more damage.

2. Treatment for drug addiction is needed for people who can't break free 
themselves. It is important to realize that some people have inherited a 
biological vulnerability to addiction. Unfortunately, treatment services 
for drug addiction have been severely cut back over the past few decades in 
B.C. As a result, treatment for addiction is often not available for those 
who need it. More treatment services are needed to help people who can't 
beat addiction on their own.

3. It is a myth that you can tell who is or isn't using intravenous drugs 
just by looking at them. Well-paid, highly placed professional people can 
and do abuse intravenous drugs.

4. Experience with needle exchange services shows that intravenous drug 
users consistently bring in more needles than they take out. In other 
words, having a needle exchange reduces the number of used needles left 
lying around the community.

5. Needle exchanges and other harm reduction services cut down the risk of 
blood-borne infection for everyone in a community, not just for those 
addicted to intravenous drugs. HIV and hepatitis B and C are spread by 
blood and body fluids. The less a community does to stop people who used 
intravenous drugs from becoming infected, the more people will become infected.

It is helpful and charitable to support services that prevent, treat or 
reduce harm from drug addiction.

Gillian Arsenault MD FRCPC
Medical Health Officer and Vice President
Public Health Protection and Licensing
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MAP posted-by: Beth