Pubdate: Thu, 18 Mar 2010
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Richard Watts, Canwest News Service


Mixing The Two Is 'Absolutely Insane,' Addiction Recovery Expert Says

Drug users could be offered addiction treatment and clean needles 
under the same roof in a proposal being considered by the Vancouver 
Island Health Authority.

The authority is looking at using its addiction outpatient treatment 
office in downtown Victoria as a site for distributing hypodermic 
needles and other paraphernalia for illegal drug use, such as crack 
pipes and sterile swabs.

It's an idea the executive director of Cedars, a Victoria addiction 
recovery centre in, calls "absolutely insane."

"I can't imagine anybody would have such poor insight as to think 
that's a reasonable thing to do," said Neal Berger, noting that at 
Cedars, staff have to be careful about even showing a movie featuring 
drug use. Even a flu shot can become a trigger point for a recovering addict.

"Just the sight of a needle, just the thought of it. ... [Addiction] 
is a brain disease and the brain starts playing tricks on people."

According to the health authority's website, the addiction outpatient 
office offers counselling and consultation on a drop-in basis most 
weekdays for addicts looking for help to get off drugs.

VIHA spokeswoman Suzanne Germain said the office is just one of 60 
sites being considered across the Island for distributing needles.

A decision on which sites will offer the supplies will be made in 
late June or early July.

The rationale behind offering clean needles to addicts is that it 
reduces the spread of infectious diseases, such as AIDS or hepatitis 
C, through the sharing of needles.

Germain said the addiction outpatient office could be exempted from 
distributing needles if a case can be made that the two functions are 
not compatible. "There is that process in place."

The health authority has a long history of problems implementing its 
harm-reduction strategy.

A needle exchange in Victoria closed in 2008 after repeated 
complaints from neighbours about public disturbances and hazards.

Proposals for needle-distribution sites at other locations were also 
spiked, amid community outrage.
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