Pubdate: Sun, 13 Aug 2017
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Page: 15


In the wake of a recent spike in drug deaths in Toronto, municipal
politicians have suddenly gone into overdrive suggesting ways to
combat this scourge.

In the space of a week we went from Mayor John Tory leading a plan to
speed up the completion of three previously approved supervised drug
injection sites in Toronto, to Board of Health Chairman Joe Mihevc
suggesting it's time to consider decriminalizing heroin and other drugs.

Clearly, it's time for everyone to slow down.

Criminalization may be worth considering, but it's not a cure all.

For example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to legalize pot -
something the federal government, as opposed to municipalities, can
actually do - is already proving to be far more complicated than first

Supervised drug injection sites may be part of the answer, so let's
try them.

But there's no guarantee the recent string of drug deaths, where
Fentanyl-laced heroin is suspected, would have been prevented had they
already been in place.

Meanwhile, there's a growing war of words between those who view drug
addiction as primarily a criminal matter and those who view it as a
medical matter. In reality, it's both.

Of course addicts are sick and need medical and psychological help.

But they often don't want it, and when they do, it often isn't

But to argue addiction is only a medical problem ignores the role
organized crime plays in supplying illegal drugs and the fact that
some addicts commit crimes to get the money they need for drugs.

In helping addicts, let's not forget the victims of crimes some
addicts commit to obtain drugs.

Our interest is in what works, recognizing, as Mayor John Tory has
said, that there is no magic bullet.

It is sensible, for example, for the police and public health
authorities to work together in combatting drug abuse.

But it is not the job of the police to act as public health workers,
nor is it the job of public health workers to act as investigators for
the police.

As for the three safe drug injection sites the city is about to open,
that's a start.

If they are to be effective, they will need to be closely monitored,
using credible, real-world data, to see if they are doing the job they
are intended to do, which is to lower the risk of drug fatalities due
to drug abuse.

But safe drug injection sites, even if effective, are a stop-gap

They don't get at the causes of illegal drug use, they simply treat
its effects.

The larger issue is ensuring that public health experts have the
resources they need to address the medical issues of addiction, while
police have the resources they need to go after drug traffickers and

It's not a question of either/or but of doing both, effectively.
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