Harm reduction is an important part of any common sense drug use policy. Programs that are community based and accessible to drug users, like Vancouver’s supervised injection site, InSite, have been proven successful in savinglives and increasing access to treatment.
In Budget 2007, the federal government introduced a new “Anti-Drug Strategy” for Canada that removes any references to harm reduction and instead puts greater emphasis on law enforcement.
While evidence shows that harm reduction works, the Conservatives are throwing more resources behind enforcement and the criminalization of
drug users. Canada’s strategy now reads like a carbon copy of George Bush’s war on drugs – which has seen drug use rise, along with the social and economic costs of incarceration.
I’ve heard from many people across the country that they are concerned about this public health issue in their communities. In December 2007, the
special exemption from the federal government that allows InSite to operate will expire.
WHAT IS HARM REDUCTION?
Harm reduction is a public health response to drug use, and describes programs and projects that aim to reduce health, social and economic
harms associated with drug use. – (with information from the International Harm Reduction Association) Harm Reduction Programs Include:
Peer Counselling, Needle Exchanges, Supervised Injection Sites, HIV/AIDS, Testing, and Alcohol and Drug Use Education.
The City of Vancouver adopted a four pillar drug strategy: Prevention, Treatment, Harm Reduction and Enforcement.
A 2007 Ipsos Reed poll showed that 74% of Vancouver residents say they support this approach. 58% would like to see more attention given to
InSite is Canada’s only supervised injection site. The program started as a three-year study in 2003, and the results have been positive. The study has met the highest academic standards and shows that InSite has resulted in:
• 30% increase in the use of addiction treatment
• Reduced public injections
• Reduced transmission of blood-borne infections like HIV and Hepatitis C
• No increase in drug-related crime rates
InSite exists because of an exemption under Section 56 of the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The federal government has been clear that it doesn’t support harm reduction, and InSite may be forced to close when the exemption expires in December, 2007.
Please join our Campaign for A Common Sense Drug Policy, and help save InSite and harm reduction programs across Canada. Sign my petition and send Stephen Harper a message: Canada is ready for a Common Sense Drug Policy.
FACT VS. FICTION OF HARM REDUCTION
Fiction: Proponents of harm reduction don’t support treatment
Fact: Supporters of harm reduction know that it is one of many
pillars needed to address drug use. Other pillars include education, prevention and access to treatment.
Fiction: We spend enough money on harm reduction, what’s needed is more
Fact: The federal government spends 73% of its drug budget on enforcement and less than 6% on prevention and harm reduction combined.
Fiction: Health Minister Tony Clement wants more research on InSite, saying “Right now the only thing the research to date has proven conclusively is drug addicts need more help to get off drugs,” (September, 2006)
Fact: Scientific research published in over 20 medical journals world wide showed that InSite reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS among needle users. A recent study reported a 30% increase in drug users access to treatment through InSite.
“Harm reduction programmes do work. Needle exchange and methadone treatment save lives….to shut ‘InSite’ down is to invite HIV infection and death. One has to wonder about the minds of those who would so readily punish injecting drug users rather than understanding the problem for what it is: a matter of public health.” – Stephen Lewis, UN Envoy, closing remarks, Toronto World AIDS Conference, August 2006.