Pubdate: Tue, 10 Jan 2006
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Times Colonist
Author: Dr. Perry Kendall
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Hepatitis)


Recent letters to the Times Colonist have expressed skepticism over 
approaches under review in Victoria that are aimed at reducing both 
the social and the individual harms that result from addiction. One 
of these letters characterized the approach as "lunacy." Perhaps the 
writer is unaware of third-party scientific evaluations that show how 
the Vancouver approach (among others) has pragmatically improved 
conditions for some users and the communities in which they live.

Approaches that reduce public disorder while improving health status 
and preventing deaths would seem to be eminently sensible, rather 
than "lunatic."

Unfortunately we have no "magic bullet" for addiction. Therefore, it 
is important to minimize the harms of problematic substance use. Dead 
people cannot recover from addiction.

Health Canada has funded a scientific evaluation of Vancouver's 
supervised-injection site. To date, the evaluations are generally 
positive as to the ability of the site to attract and retain 
high-risk users, positively affect their behaviours (including 
detoxification referral rates and binge drug use), and to improve 
public safety in the community. The site has not attracted additional 
users or had other demonstrable adverse impacts.

The majority of supervised-injection site users tend to be the most 
marginalized and socially disadvantaged injection drug users. Studies 
have found that those who use these sites are more likely to be 
long-term injection drug users with unstable living conditions, low 
income and a history of incarceration.

These sites provide an important opportunity to link this 
hard-to-reach population with health care and addiction treatment services.

Harm reduction focuses on keeping people safe and minimizing death, 
disease and injury associated with higher risk behaviour, while 
recognizing that the behaviour may continue despite the risks.

For supervised injection sites, this means preventing overdose 
deaths, stopping the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, linking 
marginalized people to health-care services and reducing the impacts 
that addiction has on communities.

Dr. Perry Kendall

Provincial Health Officer.
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