Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Supervised injection site granted 6-month extension

The federal health minister has told Vancouver Coastal Health that the city's controversial supervised drug injection site will be allowed to operate for a further six months.

Insite will be allowed to remain open until June 30, according to Viviana Zanocco, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

"We understand that the extension is being granted to allow Health Canada to conduct, or gather, additional research on the impact of injection sites, on prevention, and treatment and crime," Zanocco told CBC News.

The federal government temporarily exempted the facility from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as a pilot project in 2003. After the initial exception expired, an extension was granted while federal Health Minister Tony Clement reviewed its operations.

Why just six months? There is now more than enough scientific evidence that supervised injections achieve all and more of what was expected. Deaths from overdoses, and infections from the use of dirty needles are both down. Users of the facility are much more likely to seek treatment for their addictions than those on the street.

This is one of the very few success stories to come out of the Downtown Eastside. This is one of the very few success stories in dealing with any drug addicted population.

So why cannot the Tories and the Vancouver Police live with it? Because it does not fit into their preferred "punish the sinners" approach. In that mindset, since drug use is against the law, therefore the only response must be to put the users into prison, give them a criminal record and make sure they are treated like social pariahs. The fact that prohibition and punishment has not worked - does not work - cannot work - must not be allowed to get in the way of this "moral imperative". The Police and Mr Harper know they are right: they do not want anything like science to get in the way. And, though they would not admit this publicly, they felt that the consequences of unsupervised injections "served them right". Aids and Hep C are thought by such people to be divine retribution for sin. The same mind set is playing out across the world, denying that prophylactics can reduce infections. It also interfered with the other successful initiative - exchanging free clean needles for used ones.

The "need" for more research is twaddle. There is more than enough available for those who have a truly open mind on the subject. For the indomitable "just say no" brigade, no evidence will ever be enough to convince them that they could be wrong.

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