Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2006
Source: Tri-City News (Port Coquitlam, CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Tri-City News
Author: Gerry Gramozis


The Editor,

Opponents to safe injection sites and the harm reduction model are
gravely mistaken in what harm reduction actually is - it does not
promote drug use. Harm reduction and safe injection sites are based on
compassion, understanding and acceptance of the user of drugs.

Unlike the adversarial climate espoused in the war on drugs
philosophy, in which health-care providers were placed against users
of drugs, a harm reduction model holds that health care providers and
users of drugs are equal - and each can contribute positively to the
therapeutic relationship.

Safe injection sites are one key example. These sites provide a safe
environment for those individuals who inject drugs in addition to
offering medical help should the need arise. Users of drugs can avail
themselves of the services of public health nurses, nutritionists,
doctors and counsellors. By having safe injection sites, users may be
more inclined to seek help.

At the very least, the risk of overdosing on drugs is significantly
lower; this very fact should be enough to warrant safe injection
sites. Unquestionably, the safest use of drugs and alcohol would be no
use; but it would be unrealistic and naive to believe everyone in
society will not use drugs and alcohol.

Opponents of the harm reduction model and safe injection sites argue
that abstinence is the only goal worth achieving. Worse yet, some
argue that abstinence should be required before getting treatment. In
reality, this requirement has driven off the very people we are trying
to help.

Many substance users will die or become infected with HIV, hepatitis,
tuberculosis and other health problems before even considering, or
being able to achieve, abstinence. Harm reduction and safe injection
sites are willing to work with users where they are in terms of their
drug use. We do not impose a requirement of abstinence before working
with them.

Perhaps what is needed for opponents to harm reduction and safe
injection sites is for them to try to quit one of their own vices.
It's too easy for these people to tell drug users to just quit. I
wonder how many of these nay-sayers are willing to just quit their
daily coffee or tea; speeding when driving; watching television;
eating at fast-food restaurants? Maybe when these individuals realize
just how hard it is to change a behaviour, they will be more
compassionate and understanding to users of drugs and, as such,
embrace a harm reduction model based on empathy, understanding and,
most importantly, acceptance.

Gerry Gramozis,
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