Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2017
Source: Chilliwack Progress (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Chilliwack Progress
Author: Greg Knill


The bold suggestion by a Chilliwack emergency physician to provide
prescription heroin and a safe place to consume opiates sparked much
discussion last week.

However, the suggestion by Dr. Marc Greidanus is nothing new.

Public health experts have long cited the benefits of controlled access to
the drug - a move endorsed by the federal government late last year.

The reasons are twofold.

First it saves lives. It lessens the potential that an addicted drug user
will consume often lethal street-level opiates - drugs that have been
responsible for killing more than 800 people in the past year.

It also provides health professionals a better avenue to provide support,
education and intervention to end their drug dependency.

Second, it reduces some of the unfortunate consequences of drug addiction:
crime, prostitution, homelessness, etc. It does this by providing safe
access to the drug, thereby eliminating the need to acquire it through
illegal means.

Both these reasons draw little sympathy from some. They argue that our
overburdened health care system should not be called upon to support

However, it is for this very reason that Dr. Greidanus says safe
consumption sites are needed.

He says emergency departments throughout the Lower Mainland are being
swamped. Those people who don't die on the street are choking the medical
system and diverting care from other medical emergencies.

There is precedent. The Crosstown Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital in
Vancouver has been providing diacetylmorphine hydrochloride, the active
ingredient in heroin, for more than a decade.

Clinical trials have shown that the practice has helped people break their
addiction and return to normal lives.

It is a radical approach, but one that is drawing increasing attention as
the death toll from overdoses continues to mount.

The key is counselling and intervention. And if providing access to the
drug can facilitate that interaction, it is worth talking about.
- ---
MAP posted-by: