Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jul 2007
Source: Tri-City News (Port Coquitlam, CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Tri-City News
Author: Gerry Gramozis


The Editor,

Tom Fletcher (Summer in the drug-infested city not so pretty , 
Tri-City News, July 4, 2007) could not be more mistaken in his views 
regarding safe injection sites (SIS) and needle exchange programs 
(NEP). In his words, these sites "promote continued abuse.

However, this is exactly opposite to what the professional, 
peer-reviewed, academic research community has found.

Safe injection sites are designed to reduce the public health and 
safety problems associated with drug injection; namely, drug 
overdoses, public injection, and the spread of diseases such as HIV, 
HCV, and HBV. A SIS offers non-judgemental services to the drug-using 

Instead of looking at drug users as pariahs and misfits, or as is 
more common among those who support the moral/criminal/disease models 
of addiction in which the drug user is demonized and viewed as evil, 
an SIS treats drug users with respect, dignity, compassion, and 
understanding. This, in turn, has made it more likely for members of 
the drug using community to access the services provided by an SIS. 
As an example, inSite, North America's first safe injection site, 
offers drug users the opportunity to speak to public health nurses, 
mental health practitioners, nutritionists, and social service workers.

In addition, inSite serves as a referral agency to other programs 
such as methadone maintenance, withdrawal management, and addiction 

With injection drug use, the sharing of needles is a major health 
risk for HIV, HCV, and HBV. Health Canada (2001) reported that 
intravenous drug use is now the main route for HIV transmission; more 
specifically, almost half (45.8%) of all new HIV infections occur 
among intravenous drug users.

Further, Health Canada (2001) reported that 70% of new HCV infections 
in Canada each year are related to the sharing of needles, syringes, 
swabs, filters, spoons, tourniquets, and water associated with 
injection drug use. The improper disposal of used injection related 
equipment further exacerbates the health consequences of injection drug use.

Fortunately, the various Needle Exchange Programs within British 
Columbia alleviates, minimizes, and reduces these problems in that 
(i) drug users are able to receive clean, sterile equipment which 
minimizes the risk of disease transmission, (ii) are taught proper 
injection techniques in order to minimize the harm associated with 
injecting improperly, (iii) are able to receive information about 
where to access help from in terms of addiction counselling; and (iv) 
are able to return their used injection equipment instead of 
improperly disposing this material.

Safe injection sites and needle exchange programs do not promote 
continued abuse -- they promote survival. And survival is the key of 
all addiction services as a dead addict simply cannot recover.

Gerry Gramozis

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