Pubdate: Sun, 4 Nov 2007
Source: Tri-City News (Port Coquitlam, CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Tri-City News
Author: Gerry Gramozis


The Editor,

Re. "This is British Columbia's crime problem on drugs" (BC Views, The
Tri-City News, Oct. 10).

In his column, Tom Fletcher described Insite, Vancouver's Safe
Injection Site, as "unsafe" and a "defeatist pest-hole."

Given the proliferation of research that has been published in
peer-reviewed, prestigious medical and psychological journals over the
past five years, his comments are insulting.

As Insite provides a non-threatening environment, clients have become
willing to ask for referrals to other health and social services.
Vancouver Coastal Health reports that over a one-year period, 2,000
referrals to other services were made, with 40% of the referrals being
to addiction counselling services. Insite has also proven itself as a
proven entry-point for detox services, with one in five regular
visitors starting this type of treatment.

The sharing of syringes poses a dramatic risk to individual drug users
and to the larger community. This risk comes in the form of increased
costs to the health system and to the transmission of blood-borne
pathogens. Insite has resulted in users being 70% less likely to share
syringes than injection drug users who do not use the facility.

Between 2004 and '06, there have been more than 453 overdoses at this
facility but not a single individual has died. This statistic alone
refutes Mr. Fletcher's comments that Insite is unsafe.

What would be unsafe is the closure of Vancouver's supervised
injection site. Research shows that the costs would be high: 22 deaths
related to overdoses each year; 112 hospitalizations for non-lethal
overdoses each year; 2,000 emergency medical visits for injection
mishaps each year; 100 hospitalizations due to bacterial infections
each year; and a failure to make 100 referrals to methadone treatment
each year.

In the same column, Mr. Fletcher asserts that "much squawking [has
occurred] about a U.S.-style war on drugs." I argue that concern
should be raised regarding any implementation of a war on drugs in
Canada given the harm such a war has caused within the U.S.

Countless research efforts have shown this war has been an abject
failure. It has created a climate of propaganda that spreads lies and
half-truths regarding drugs, drug effects and drug users instead of
providing accurate, reliable and scientifically researched

The war on drugs has promoted intolerance to others by way of
discrimination and marginalization, which, as a result, has
contributed to the isolation of the very people who need to access
treatment, mental health services, and social services.

A return to a war on drugs within Canada will only serve to exacerbate
our current addiction problems. All one has to do is look to our
neighbours to the south to see that despite their efforts, their drug
problem has got worse.

What is needed in Canada is for a greater level of understanding of
the research that has been done regarding new initiatives and
approaches to treating addiction instead of simply relying on
rhetoric, political ideologies, religious dogma and moralistic objections.

Gerry Gramozis,
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