Vancouver Safe Injection Site Reduces Deaths

Posted on 4/30/2011 by meg

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

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