Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jun 2014
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The London Free Press
Author: Dan Brown
Page: A3


Free crack pipes for drug addicts in London?

That day could be coming 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 members of the board 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, the 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 up Thames River Rally, a group of volunteers who 
help to clean up the banks of the Thames River. He said his 
organization has found "caches" of a hundred used needles in a single spot.

"That photo that was up there made me cringe," said board member Mark 
Studenny, alluding to an image provided by Cull that shows a syringe 
sticking out of a tree along the river's banks.

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