Ottawa March 16, 2016 Pressure is being exerted in several Canadian cities to establish drug injection sites. It is argued that these supervised sites are a solution to the problem of drug addiction. This confidence in drug injection sites, however, is misplaced judging from the evidence obtained from the drug injection site in Vancouver, established in 2003.
For example, it is argued that drug injection sites will save lives and improve the health of addicts. This is not the experience of the Vancouver facility. According to the Government of British Columbia Selected Vital Statistics and Health Status Indicators, Annual Reports (1) there is no evidence that the number of deaths from drug overdose in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Vancouver’s Drug Injection Site, known as InSite) was reduced by the establishment of the site in 2003. The official number of deaths by drug overdose were as follows: 28 deaths in 2003, 32 in 2004, 37 in 2005, 38 in 2006, 46 in 2007, 24 in 2008, 40 in 2009, 28 in 2010 and 35 in 2011.
According to the federal Expert Advisory Committee on Supervised Drug Injection Sites (March 31, 2008) only 5% of injections occur in the area of the supervised drug injection site. Less than 10% of visitors use the supervised injection facility exclusively for their injections. In other words, 90% of drug addicts continue to inject their drugs in back streets, alleyways, etc. leaving their contaminated needles behind.
It is also argued that the drug injection sites will decrease the spread of HIV and other blood borne diseases and place clients into treatment and off the drugs. According to the Expert Committee there is no proof that such sites decrease the incidence of AIDS or hepatitis in drug addicts. Only 3% of InSite clients are referred for treatment.
Also, there is no proof that the Vancouver drug injection site reduced crime. This is due to the fact that between 50 to 66 extra police are specifically assigned to the 12 city blocks surrounding the drug injection site since 2003 in order to limit criminal activity in the area. Police officers are prohibited from charging the addict with possession and instead, are obliged to escort the addict into the injection site. The drug addict or casual user obtains illicit drugs, of questionable purity, from a drug trafficker, which he/she then brings into the site for injection purposes. The drug injection site becomes a “honey pot” or meeting point for drug traffickers. According to the Expert Advisory Committee it is estimated that each addict causes $350,000 worth of crime each year on order to purchase drugs from a trafficker.
Most significantly, drug injection sites serve to deepen the addiction. Well off individuals can afford to obtain treatment for their addiction. It is the addicts without money or support who are shuffled off to InSite, where they inject themselves continuously with street drugs, which only increases their addiction. This results in the addicts’ further degradation and, often terrifying death. The problem of drug use is not solved by enabling drug addicts to use more drugs.
It is obvious that a compassionate society should not kill addicts by furthering their addiction by drug injection sites, but rather, should reach out to them by way of treatment.
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REAL Women was one of fourteen intervenors in the Supreme Court of Canada case dealing with the Vancouver Drug Injection Site Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society,