Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jul 2008
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Larry Campbell


Margaret Wente's attack on harm reduction and drug policy reformers
demonstrates a profound level of naivety. She blames scarce services
that help our most marginalized citizens for the problems of drugs in
our society. She also suggests that harsher enforcement interventions
would be the solution. As an ex-Mountie, I know the frustration that
officers experience when dealing with chronic drug abuse. I also know
that enforcement initiatives have a limited ability to influence an
addict's recovery. The fact is, more police will not help reduce the
availability of drugs or assist with any of the associated health and
social problems.

The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS conducted a study that
found we spend 73 per cent of our money on enforcement, 14 per cent on
treatment and only 3 per cent on harm reduction. Our Four Pillar
approach is really one pillar and four toothpicks. Harm reduction is
not the problem. Most of the problems described by Ms. Wente are
created by drug prohibition. Prohibition did not work for alcohol and
it is not working for illegal drugs. And it is the illegal status of
these substances that makes it lucrative enough for gangs and
criminals to risk prosecution to engage and endanger our youth. It is
prohibition that produces the imbalance in how we spend our scarce
public resources.

The problems associated with drug addiction are primarily health and
social issues; the only way of managing them effectively is through an
appropriate range of integrated health and social responses. We need
to humanize, not demonize.

Larry Campbell


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