Pubdate: Thu, 18 Mar 2010
Source: Nanaimo Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Nanaimo Daily News
Author: Richard Watts


One critic calls the idea to hand out drug paraphernalia 'absolutely 
insane'; rationale is to halt spread of disease

Drug users could be offered addiction treatment and clean needles 
under the same roof in a proposal now 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, an addiction recovery 
centre in Cobble Hill, 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 . . . this 
(addiction) is a brain disease and the brain starts playing tricks on 
people," said Berger.

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.

A final 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.

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

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

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