Vancouver Safe Injection Site Reduces Deaths

North America's first supervised injection facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is already demonstrating positive results. According to data gathered by the University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS from 300 coroner reports between 2001 and 2005, deaths due to illicit drug overdose has decreased by significantly since the facility opened its doors in September 2003.

During the period under review, no overdoses occurred in the facility and declined by 35% in the immediate surroundings, while deaths resulting from overdose declined by only 9% in the rest of Vancouver. Researchers ensured that factors such as changes in drug supply or purity were ruled out.
"This study provides the first unequivocal scientific evidence of the benefits of supervised injection facilities, and clearly demonstrates that facilities such as Insite are saving lives and playing a vital role in reducing the harms associated with illicit drug use," says co-author Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC-CfE and Chair of AIDS Research at the UBC Faculty of Medicine.”
If further research could produce similar results, an expansion of the current facility and the opening of new sites in other provinces and territories could save begin saving lives all over Canada. The Vancouver site is only a pilot project at this time. It has a capacity of 12 injection seats and monitors roughly 500 injections per day in an area that is home to about 5,000 injection drug users.

Although common sense is suggesting that these lives have only been saved because drug users are being supervised in a controlled environment, could it be that society is merely delaying what might be inevitable? Personally, I have always been on the fence with respect to harm reduction methods as they tend to enable the user. However, in extreme cases it sometimes seems like the only option in order to move the user to a place where they are ready to work on their addictions. In addition, safe injection sites prevent the spread of disease, such as HIV, which evidently reduces deaths.
“Established in 2003 in response to an HIV epidemic and escalating overdose death rates in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Insite enables injection drug users to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of nurses. Counsellors are also available onsite to provide support and referrals to programs, including addiction treatment. An extensive scientific evaluation by UHRI researchers has previously demonstrated the facility's ability to reduce HIV risk behaviour, increase access to addiction treatment and primary health care services, and reduce healthcare costs in the long term.”
Despite its possible negative features, safe injection sites appear to do more good than harm generally. Besides, more and more research seems to be surfacing to support this fact. Nevertheless, the federal government clearly cannot see the value in such facilities as they have submitted an appeal against the BC Court ruling that deemed Insite as a health care facility under provincial jurisdiction that ensures an individual’s constitutional right to health through an essential health service. This hearing is set for May 12, 2011 at the Supreme Court of Canada.

What are your thoughts about safe injection sites?

Overdose Deaths Down 35 Percent After Opening of Vancouver's Supervised Injection Site


Are Wet Programs Really Effective?

Recently, Jay Leno has attracted more attention to the controversy that surrounds Ottawa's Inner City Health "wet" program by poking fun it for doling out wine to many of the city’s homeless alcoholics as a method of treatment.

Some of the participants in this Canadian treatment program are drinking up to 72 ounces or 3 bottles of wine each day depending on the severity of their addiction. Basically, chronic alcoholic residents of these programs are offered varying amounts of wine with alcohol content ranging from 0% - 12.5% every hour between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Despite fairly positive research on the effectiveness of these programs, most people cannot fathom how feeding an alcoholic wine could possibly treat alcoholism. For instance, Cyril Morgan, director of the Welcome Hall Mission in Montreal, Quebec, is not convinced that this method of treatment actually works. "It doesn't wean them off, it pacifies them for the time they're in the program," he said. "Once you take them out of that environment, then what?"

Those in favour of the program boast about its ability to give some quality of life back to severe alcoholics. For many, it could mean the difference between life and death. In addition, research on such programs has shown that some individuals have quit drinking completely and many others have greatly improved their health and hygiene. It also means that hardcore alcoholics no longer have to resort to drinking harmful substances such as paint thinner, mouthwash or aftershave. Essentially, the program works toward stabilization in order to progress toward treatment of other aspects of their lives.
“According to Wendy Muckle, a nurse and director of Ottawa City Health, said the program — which also exists in Toronto and Hamilton, Ont. — is often misunderstood, conjuring up images of taxpayers paying for homeless people to get drunk.”
Muckle also states that research has proven that 1 out of every 55 people quit drinking each year because of this program. Although the success rate is not exactly extraordinary, it does mean that one more person is taken off the street and given their life back. Critics may not realize that these kinds of programs are directed toward individuals that may have spent the past 35 years drinking themselves into unconsciousness on the street.
“Montreal has between 3,000 and 5,000 homeless people, with each one costing taxpayers on average $55,000 a year in health, corrections and social services, according to a joint report from Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary.”
Meanwhile residents of this program in Ottawa pay about $80.00 each month for their booze and cigarettes and any small amount of monthly government assistance remaining is paid directly to the program to cover board and lodging expenses.

Regardless of the cost savings, the answer to the question as to whether or not wet programs are effective seems clear. These programs take the worst of the worst alcoholics off the street and alter their lives dramatically. “Daily police pickups, ambulance rides and emergency room visits are replaced with harm reduction and far better care.” Not to mention the fact that each and every person that successfully transitions into recovery makes this program effective. Personally, I cannot comprehend how anyone might find this program comical in any way.

Ottawa alcoholism program still controversial, despite signs of progress



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