Pubdate: Fri, 16 Oct 2009
Source: Comox Valley Record (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Comox Valley Record
Author: Jayne Fisher


Dear editor,

I am not surprised that people are voicing their discomfort and 
concerns in relation to the distribution of free crack pipes, as I 
understand the devastating effects that drug use can have on families 
and the community.

However, as a fourth-year nursing student, I am disheartened to read 
such disturbing answers for "dealing" with people suffering with drug 

"Incarcerating people and forcing them into sobriety" is not the 
answer to the issues associated with illicit drug use, and it is 
certainly not moral. Drug dependence is a medical problem, an illness 
that requires treatment, not imprisonment. Incarceration just puts 
people into another high-risk environment that can result in 
increased drug use, infections, or withdrawal.

Reports documented in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics inform 
that inadequate treatment of drug withdrawal in jails is common. 
People who are dependent on drugs require treatment, such as 
detoxification, to avoid the pain and suffering associated with acute 
withdrawal. When this is not provided, individuals experience 
symptoms such as discomfort, severe pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, 
psychosis or even death (2004). This is certainly not humane, nor 
does it respect the dignity, autonomy or justice that all individuals 
have a right to and deserve.

Although law enforcement is part of the public health strategy to 
reducing the harms associated with drug use, "forcing" incarceration 
and abstinence does not work.

In fact, there is strong evidence from the Correctional Service 
Canada that reports an increase in HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C 
infections in Canadian prisons in relation to addictions. Illicit 
drug use is widespread and is perpetuated, not reduced, by 
correctional policies.

As a result, harm reduction measures are now being recommended in 
Canadian jails to reduce the spread of disease (2005).

Understandably, there are a lot of concerns with alternative 
approaches to reducing the damaging effects caused by drug use, but 
providing free crack pipes does not encourage illegal drug use or 
enable individuals.

Harm reduction has proven to result in reduced infections, deaths, 
use of shared substance-use equipment, reduced crime rates, and 
increased referrals to treatment programs.

Furthermore, distributing supplies such as crack pipe mouthpieces 
provides opportunities to health-care workers to engage with 
vulnerable populations, offer services, advice and support around 
safe practices (BCCDC, 2009).

To help understand the harm reduction philosophy and why it came 
about, I recommend reading the BCCDC's Harm Reduction of BC Community 
Guide at .

Jayne Fisher,
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart