Pubdate: Fri, 25 May 2007
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2007, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Rod Mickleburgh
Cited: British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Bookmark: (InSite)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Supervised Injection Sites)


Use of Centre Increases Rate of Addicts Entering Detox 30%, 
London-Based Medical Journal Finds

VANCOUVER -- On the eve of the expected unveiling next week of the 
federal Conservatives' long-waited anti-drug strategy, a significant 
new study has endorsed the benefits of Vancouver's controversial 
safe-injection site for heroin addicts, a pilot project many fear 
Ottawa will end.

The study, published today in the London-based medical journal 
Addiction, found that use of the city's supervised injection facility 
known as Insite increased the rate of addicts entering detox by 30 per cent.

As well, the study determined users of North America's only 
safe-injection site were more likely to reduce their heroin intake 
and pursue formal treatment programs such as methadone once they left detox.

The dramatic findings appear to echo precisely what the ultimate 
arbiter of the facility's fate, federal Health Minister Tony Clement, 
has said Insite needs to demonstrate to prove its worth: lower drug 
use and success in fighting addiction.

They also fly in the face of an earlier RCMP report critical of the 
site, asserting there is "considerable evidence" that allowing 
addicts to shoot up safely increases the use of illegal drugs.

Despite the study, however, Insite backers continue to worrythat the 
distaste of many Conservatives for harm-reduction programs, which 
treat drug addiction as a health problem rather than a criminal 
matter, will result in the centre's demise by the end of the year.

They point to numerous previous scientific studies in medical 
publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The 
Lancet, all of which found a positive impact on drug users and the 
surrounding neighbourhood since Insite opened more than three years ago.

Yet Mr. Clement has called for more research before making a decision 
on the facility's future.

"The government has seemed intent on ignoring scientific evidence to 
pursue an ideological agenda at the expense of lives in the Downtown 
Eastside," said Dr. Julio Montaner, one of the study's authors and 
director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

"It is time for the federal government to accept the evidence and 
move the debate to a higher level."

Underscoring widespread skepticism among many researchers over the 
government's alleged anti-harm-reduction agenda is a decision by five 
leading scientists to boycott bidding for Health Canada contracts to 
conduct further research into Insite's operation.

In an open letter to senior Health Canada policy analyst Tracey 
Donaldson, the group said the five-month time frame is too short, 
compensation is insufficient and successful bidders must agree to 
keep mum over their research for six months.

"In no way is that acceptable to any academic," one of the 
scientists, Benedikt Fischer of the University of Victoria, said 
yesterday. "And how can anyone produce anything meaningful in such a 
short time that goes beyond what has already been done by other 
researchers? There are already 40 to The Addiction study based its 
findings on interviews and database searches involving more than 
1,000 Insite users. Researchers compared their activity in the year 
before visiting Insite and the year following their first use of the facility.

A complicated mathematical adjustment taking other factors into 
consideration produced a final conclusion that the rate of addicts 
entering detoxification rose 30 per cent among those using the 
injection facility. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake