Pubdate: Mon, 06 Feb 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Gordon Clark
Page: 14


Here we are in the biggest fatal overdose epidemic in B.C. history and
what's top of mind for the province's addiction treatment experts? The
need to "destigmatize" addiction. In fact, let's not even call the
taking of deadly illegal drugs an "addiction" or "drug abuse" any
more, they tell us. We're supposed to call addicts "patients" with a
"substance-use disorder."

Excuse me if I don't buy the nicey-nicey language. And I doubt if most
people who live in the real world and who have to pay millions of
dollars in taxes for all these latest trendy approaches to drug
addiction do, either.

It's not that I don't appreciate the need to treat drug addicts
humanely. I have a family member - a middle-class family man with a
good job - who took crack once in middle age and then destroyed every
aspect of his life trying to get his next hit. I understand that
addiction can strike all kinds of people.

But having compassion for those in the grips of addiction doesn't mean
we should, as a society, normalize such self-destructive behaviour -
with the damage rippling out to addicts' family and friends - by
pretending that a drug user is just another patient in need of medical
care. Nor do I support ever-increasing expensive government-funded
programs to enable people to self-harm by taking more drugs,
especially without enough aggressive programs to help them get clean.

If you want to spend tax dollars on addicts, I'd rather see it go
toward detox and recovery programs instead of more needle exchanges,
safe-injection sites and new ways to keep addicts hooked, like recent
proposals to give out free heroin.

We've been trying these programs in B.C. for years and what do we get?
The highest number of fatal ODs ever - human misery on top of even
more human misery.

While drug use is generally falling in Canada, at least until 2012,
the last year for which we have numbers, B.C. drug use is consistently
higher. Could this province's lenient approach to drug use not be a

Just more than half of B.C.'s population aged 15 and older (50.6 per
cent) have tried at least one illegal drug during their lives, well
above the national average of 43.2 per cent or the 38.7 per cent of
people in New Brunswick, according to Statistics Canada's Canadian
Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS).

The percentage of British Columbians who had used one of six drugs in
the past year - cannabis, cocaine/crack, speed, ecstasy,
hallucinogens, heroin - was 13.9 per cent, a third higher than the
national average of 10.6 per cent. Excluding cannabis, about 2.7 per
cent of B.C. residents had used hard drugs in the past year, 35 per
cent higher than the two-per-cent national average.

As well, a staggering 21.6 per cent of British Columbians aged 15 and
above have used one of the five hard drugs during their lives,
compared to the national average of 15.4 per cent. It's clear we have
a drug problem in B.C.

About the only public official who has made sense lately is Chief
Coroner Lisa Lapointe, who told B.C. residents to "avoid
experimentation and the casual use of illicit drugs," given the record
number of 914 overdose deaths in B.C. last year due to the fentanyl

"The risks are now unmanageable," she said in a news

Is that too stigmatizing? Or is it just the tough good advice that
drug users need to hear?

I've volunteered for many years in minor hockey and other youth sports
where we have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs. Parents, generally,
also take that approach, as do employers. So why doesn't government?
Why is there this fear to judge those who are killing themselves and
bringing such harm to their family, most significantly their children?

We need to get out the message that if you do drugs, you will have a
short, lousy, unaccomplished life and then be forgotten. The brutal
truth in all of this is that for most people watching the unfolding
drug epidemic, drug deaths aren't a tragedy. They are seen for what
they are - self-inflicted harm and the natural consequence of terrible
personal decisions.

If we want to stop the terrible loss of life to drug abuse in B.C.,
not to mention the terrible loss in human potential from drug use,
maybe it's time for a little more stigma. Instead of enabling drug
use, government programs should focus on aggressive treatment.

Without a change of policy, we're kidding ourselves if we don't think
the carnage will continue.
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