Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jun 2014
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Dan Brown
Page: A4
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Free crack pipes for drug addicts in London?

That day could come soon after the Middlesex-London board of health 
unanimously endorsed a motion to move ahead with plans to hand out 
"safer smoking supplies" - the bureaucratic term for paraphernalia 
used by addicts to smoke crack cocaine - at its monthly meeting 
Thursday evening. Two board members expressed reservations about the plan.

"I have a discomfort because it's enabling an addiction," said Viola 
Poletes Montgomery. There's an "incredibly fine line" between helping 
addicts and enabling them, echoed Ian Peer.

A presentation on the proposal was led by the Middlesex-London Health 
Unit's Shaya Dhinsa and Brian Lester, executive director of the 
Regional HIV/ AIDS Connection.

The plan to give out crack pipes is based on the argument that 
"limited availability of safer smoking supplies has resulted in 
sharing of supplies" that may "lead to increased infections and use 
of makeshift equipment that can cause injury," in the words of the 
report accepted by the board.

Ultimately, giving away crack pipes would "decrease the transmission 
of HIV, hepatitis C and other communicable diseases among people who 
smoke crack cocaine," the members of the board heard.

Almost half of injection drug users in London reported to the health 
unit they had used crack, a highly addictive derivative of cocaine, 
in the last six months, the report indicates.

Proponents of the proposal admit it won't entirely eliminate risks to 
crack smokers. "No matter how you smoke crack, it's not safe," said 
Dr. Christopher Mackie, head of the health unit.

"People are going to smoke crack unsafely," said Lester, but "it 
could mean less needles on the street."

Crack has generated countless headlines lately because of Toronto 
Mayor Rob Ford, who is in rehab because he was caught on cellphone 
video smoking crack during one of his self-described "drunken stupors."

The health unit gives away syringes to drug users as part of its 
harm-reduction strategy. The board heard earlier from Tom Cull, the 
Londoner who heads Thames River Rally, a volunteer group that helps 
clean up the banks of the Thames River. He said his group has found 
"caches" of 100 used needles in one spot.

"That photo that was up there made me cringe," said board member Mark 
Studenny, alluding to an image provided by Cull showing a syringe 
sticking out of a tree at riverside.

Ward 4 Coun. Stephen Orser and Ward 14 Coun. Sandy White, sent 
regrets they weren't able to attend Thursday's meeting.
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