HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Insite Raises Use Of Detox, Report Says
Pubdate: Fri, 25 May 2007
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Peter O'Neil
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Results Prompt Scientists To Denounce Ottawa's Refusal To Fund Injection Centre

The federal Conservative government's refusal to support North 
America's only legal supervised injection site for drug addicts is 
driven by ideology and politics and not research, two health 
scientists said Thursday after the release of a new report on the 
facility in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The report, published in a London-based medical journal, says Insite 
has resulted in a 30-per-cent increase in the use of detoxification 
programs such as methadone replacement therapy, addiction 
counselling, or participation in Narcotics Anonymous.

That higher use of detox since Insite opened in 2003 suggests, based 
on previous research, that the facility "has probably helped to 
reduce rates of injection drug use among users of the facility," 
concluded the five scientists at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in 
HIV/AIDS in their report, published in the June issue of the 
peer-reviewed medical journal Addiction.

Health Minister Tony Clement questioned whether research supported 
Insite last September when he refused to grant a 31/ -year extension 
in the facility's federal permit.

Clement, noting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is 
about to introduce a tough national drug strategy that puts more 
focus on enforcement and less on so-called "harm reduction" measures 
like injection sites and needle exchanges, suspended Ottawa's 
decision on Insite's future until the end of this year.

"The government seems intent on ignoring scientific evidence to 
pursue an ideological agenda at the expense of lives in the Downtown 
Eastside," co-author Dr. Julio Montaner said in a statement.

He said the new conclusions answer Clement's questions about whether 
Insite is contributing to lower drug use and fighting addiction.

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, a former B.C.-based researcher now at the 
University of California's School of Medicine in San Diego, also 
accused the government of putting politics before health.

"It is time for politicians who oppose [supervised injection sites] 
on the grounds that more research is needed to be honest with their 
constituents," Strathdee wrote in a commentary attached to the report.

"It is lack of political will, not lack of data, that is keeping 
these life-saving public health services out of the hands of our 
drug-dependent citizens."

The new report in Addictions, summarizing results of a study funded 
by the federal government, said the average number of users entering 
detox programs increased to 31.3 from 21.6 in the year after Insite 
opened. While that increase represents an increase of roughly 50 per 
cent, the researchers adjusted the results to take into consideration 
other factors in coming up with the 30-per-cent figure.

"There have been many benefits of Insite in terms of public order and 
reduced HIV risk," said co-author Dr. Evan Wood.

"However, the fact that it appears to be pulling people out of the 
cycle of addiction by leading them into programs that reduce drug use 
is remarkable."

Erik Waddell, a spokesman for Clement, said Thursday that the 
government has followed through on its commitment to expand research 
on safe injection sites.

Health Canada is commissioning a study costing up to $250,000 to 
analyse health, public order, and operational issues as well as 
"local contextual issues" relating to injection sites.

The winning bidder will also determine "similarities and differences 
between Vancouver and other Canadian cities," according to the 
proposed contract. Several cities, including Victoria, have expressed 
interest in getting a federal exemption allowing them to set up a 
supervised injection site.

A group of Canadian scientists not connected to the B.C. Centre for 
Excellence in HIV/AIDS released a letter Thursday challenging the 
credibility of the federal research initiative.

The authors, from universities in Victoria, Ottawa, Toronto and 
Sherbrooke, Que., said the Oct. 31, 2007 deadline for the final 
report is too soon to conduct meaningful new research.

They also said a "disclosure moratorium" stipulated in the request 
for proposals is "difficult if not impossible" to accept because 
scientific knowledge must be "openly accessible" for scrutiny and debate.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman