Pubdate: Wed, 14 Dec 2005
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The Toronto Star
Author: Peter Selby


Re: Safe sites ignore harm drawn outside

Column, Dec. 9.

Once again Rosie DiManno paints addiction as another selfish
lifestyle. As a physician who treats patients with substance use
problems, I can assure you that this is not an accurate picture. By
definition, addiction is the continued use of a drug despite the harm
it causes one medically, psychologically, socially, financially, and
in every other way.

Like other chronic diseases and maladies affecting us, addiction has
genetic, environmental, social and cultural determinants. There are
parts of the brain that are "hijacked" by the drug, and breaking free
is not only a matter of willpower or attending a 21-day treatment
program. Recovery is a complex process that needs to engage people
with addictions earlier in their disease through approaches
recommended in the Toronto Drug Strategy rather than alienate them
till they hit "rock bottom."

The other point I must take issue with is DiManno's claim that Toronto
should not even examine the feasibility of a safe consumption site
because she is convinced it would attract crime.

In Vancouver, the police are encouraging the use of their safe
consumption sites as a positive alternative to the consumption of
drugs in public spaces. Research in other jurisdictions shows that
these sites actually help to reduce public disorder; a feasibility
study would tell us if such a site would suit the drug situation in
Toronto or not.

It has been the short-sightedness of several jurisdictions in not
supporting comprehensive needle exchange programs that led to the
explosion of the HIV epidemic in injection users. The current rates of
HIV in Toronto's injection population have remained below 10 per cent
for the last decade largely due to reduced needle sharing and we
intend to keep it that way.

Built on a broad consultation process, the Toronto Drug Strategy takes
a comprehensive approach to a very complex health and social problem,
making 66 informed recommendations based on the four pillars of
prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement. The strategy
deserves to be passed by council in its entirety.

Dr. Peter Selby, Clinical Director, Addictions Program, CAMH,
University of Toronto 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake