Pubdate: Fri, 06 Jun 2008
Source: Chilliwack Times (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Chilliwack Times
Author: Dr. R. McKellar



In a recent letter entitled "Our drug strategy is not working," Mary
Hartman argues the Insite facility for drug users ought to be
eliminated, and replaced by treatment programs aimed at reducing the
number of addicts.

I believe Ms. Hartman is correct in her claim that we need more
treatment programs, and I also agree our current drug strategy is not
working. However, I feel her argument is seriously flawed when it
comes to eliminating Insite as a necessary element of changing policy
regarding drug use.

Ms. Hartman's argument depends upon a common logical fallacy known to
philosophers as a "false dichotomy," or false choice between two
alternatives. According to Ms. Hartman, and Tony Clement, Minister of
Health, we are forced to choose between Insite and treatment. But the
opposite is true. Scientists who have actually done the studies argue
that addicts are more likely to seek treatment if they have first
availed themselves of Insite's facilities.

There have always been two problems with treatment centres in the
past: there were too few of them, and users were not likely to commit
themselves of their own free will. But according to those who work at
the Insite facility, users who take drugs in a controlled setting, and
who deal with medical staff on a long-term basis, are more likely to
enter what treatment facilities there are. Insite may be a necessary
step in helping addicts move into long-term treatment programs, and so
should not be abandoned. We should have more treatment centres, but
facilities like Insite may be a necessary step in getting addicts to
seek help in those centres. We are certainly not forced to choose
between these two.

Many opponents to Insite argue that we are encouraging drug use, and
that we are not reducing the number of addicts through Insite. It
might be useful to remember, however, that Insite was not set up to
reduce the number of addicts, but to mitigate the harm done to them by
their addiction. Since its inception, Insite has saved the lives of
222 users, and potentially slowed the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C.
Over 2,000 people have been counselled and refered to other helping
agencies. Tony Clement describes this as "misplaced compassion," a
rather telling remark. Unfortunately, Mr. Clement has ignored the
finding of the medical workers and scientists, peer-reviewed studies
published in reputable medical journals such as Lancet, and instead
argued there are other scientific studies that prove Insite does not
work. We continue to await for Mr. Clement to name these sources. So
far, his silence on this point speaks volumes.

Finally, it might be good to consider that the long-term solution to
our drug problem may lie in an entirely different approach to drug use
and treatment. Drug use became a law enforcement issue in this country
during a time when we understood its medical basis in only a limited
fashion. We need to have a more mature, ethical, reflective and
scientifically valid approach to treating drugs and drug users, one
that would be truly compassionate, and hold out the promise of
success, as Insite has done. Instead, the Conservative government
would rather stick to an ideological approach that has a 50-year
record of failure, while discounting the results of valid scientific

What should we think of such a government?


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