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View Full Version : Vancouver’s drug strategy has been a disaster. Be very wary of emulating it



Billythreefeathers
06-16-2017, 10:39 AM
Tristin Hopper: Vancouver’s drug strategy has been a disaster. Be very wary of emulating it

http://news.nationalpost.com/opinion/tristin-hopper-vancouvers-drug-strategy-has-been-disaster-be-very-wary-of-emulating-it

Last week, Edmonton city hall voted 10-1 in favour of building not just one “safe consumption” sites for drugs, but four of them — all within walking distance of one another in one of the city’s lowest-income urban districts.

The decision was made despite the fact that more than 80 per cent of Edmonton’s fentanyl-related overdoses are occurring in the suburbs — well beyond the reach of the new facilities. The move also ignores fervent pleas from locals, who claim that approving four drug consumption sites will be a death sentence for their already chaotic and drug-ridden neighbourhood.

And honestly, it’s hard to see how the locals are wrong. While the strategy of harm reduction can indeed save the lives of addicts in the short term, it can destroy communities if used in isolation.

These unhappy results can be seen a province away. Vancouver is into its second decade of dealing with an injected-drug crisis. The city has been concentrating more and more services in its Downtown Eastside. The result? Everything seems to be getting worse.

Homelessness numbers continue to rise. There were 2,138 homeless individuals in Vancouver in 2017 — compared to only 1,364 in 2005. Theft and violent crime in the Downtown Eastside have gone up since 2002. And as an overdose crisis sweeps Canada, Vancouver is its undisputed epicentre. Even with teams of naloxone-armed paramedics addressing a nightly rush of overdosed drug users, more than 100 people have died of overdoses in 2017 — with most of these occurring within the narrow borders of the Downtown Eastside.


And yet, all across the continent planners can be heard talking up Vancouver’s success on the addiction file.

They’re usually pointing to the success of Insite, which was established in 2003 as North America’s first safe injection site.

In his bestselling book Chasing the Scream, British author Johann Hari said Vancouver gave him a “sense of hope” for the future of drug policy. Seattle is now planning to open the first safe-injection site in the United States, with proponents citing the “beyond amazing” example of Insite.”

Or there’s the oft-cited example of Philip Owen, Vancouver’s former conservative-minded mayor who became one of Insite’s most fervent supporters. “You’re not encouraging people to use drugs by opening a supervised injection site. You’re assisting people who need help,” Owen told Postmedia in 2016.

And Insite’s supporters are right; safe-injection sites are good at what they do. But they really only do one thing: prevent people from dying.

It does not seem to reduce crime. There is slim evidence to show that it reduces overall addiction rates. And it certainly doesn’t lead to livable neighbourhoods filled with healthy people.

“After they opened Insite, it was like a warm hug from God … I mean people used to die here from overdose almost every day,” one Downtown Eastside drug user told the authors of a 2012 study.

Safe injection sites are designed to do away with the most nightmarish aspects of injection drug use: Addicts sharing needles, using puddle water for injections, getting robbed after a fix and dying of overdoses. A frequently cited 2011 paper in The Lancet that studied Insite’s success found a 35 per cent decrease in the fatal overdose rate in the several blocks immediately surrounding the facility. And a 2009 review by Simon Fraser University criminologist Martin A. Andresen estimated that Insite saves three lives per year.

But this is only one part of Vancouver’s drug story.

For one, the drugs consumed at Insite are “pre-obtained,” which is to say that they are still purchased by users on the black market. With about 700 injections occurring on site per day, it follows that there is still a vibrant market for drug suppliers — the very ones now cutting their product with lethal doses of fentanyl.

Insite’s own website says that “supervised injection facilities can help people quit drugs” — but the data proving as much is slim. The two major studies that Insite references cover a limited time period, and only document an increase in admissions to detoxification. To date, there is no definitive, long-term data showing that Vancouver’s injection drug users are successfully getting clean and kicking drugs because of safe injection.

Meanwhile, a 2006 British Medical Journal study looked at the years before and after Insite’s opening and found “no substantial decrease in the rate of stopping injected drug use.” While Insite will provide referrals to drug treatment, they also aim to be “low barrier.” Site staff do not want to alienate patients by counselling or pressuring them to seek treatment.

A 2012 thesis, in which Simon Fraser University student Jennifer Vishloff interviewed Insite nurses, mentions staff having to clench their teeth when encountering fresh-faced drug-users who were still entranced with the excitement of the Downtown Eastside.

“Even though I want to tell them to ‘run out of there! It’s important that I give them a really good experience so that they come back and when they have their crisis … they come to us,” said one nurse. Another described assisting a drunk reveler with their first-ever hit of heroin. “I didn’t feel comfortable signing them up because they definitely weren’t entrenched,” she said. “Yet at the same time they were intoxicated which increases their overdose risk.”

Even for those who get into treatment, it is notoriously difficult to get clean on the Downtown Eastside. Anyone leaving detox steps back into a neighbourhood where are their friends are users, all their neighbours are users, and where the whole machinery of the community seems to be geared towards injection drug use. “Nobody can go through recovery here, for the most part, it’s just not possible,” Kate Gibson, executive director of WISH, a drop-in centre for survival sex workers, told the National Post in 2014.

Vancouver’s error was to see Insite’s success, and to then allow the surrounding neighbourhood to be increasingly shaped by the philosophy of harm reduction. For example, there’s the whimsically decorated crack-pipe vending machine. The city also dropped the Hastings Street speed limit to 30 km/h, to protect addicts who are unable to demarcate the road from a sidewalk.

There’s also a city hall-funded “street market” that — despite organizers’ fervent claims to the contrary — is well-known by locals to be a brazen hotspot for stolen goods. There are now more than 170 non-profits clustered in an area of only a few blocks, all devoted towards supporting an increasingly dense community of addicts. In a 2015 interview, longtime Downtown Eastside organizer Scott Clark referred to the growth of “a pipeline for vulnerable populations” that has become a “magnet over the years.”

“These service providers, and the government managers that keep funding these agencies, they refuse to look at the evidence that says putting these many vulnerable people in one building, in one community, is simply not healthy for anyone,” said Clark, executive director of the Aboriginal Live in Vancouver Enhancement Society.

The people who want to prevent more Downtown Eastsides all say the same thing: Do not try to address a drug problem by concentrating all your services on skid row. “You can’t just focus on harm reduction, you also have to focus on prevention, education and enforcement,” said Tom Stamatkis, the president of the Vancouver Police Union, in 2016.

Philip Owen would say much the same. The former mayor is still fervently pro-Insite — and attends drug policy conferences around the world to say as much — but he is deeply troubled by the neighbourhood that has developed around it. “You just keep dumping money in, building social housing and filling it up with people from all around the region and the country … they all get chemically dependent, and it’s just more sales for the drug dealers,” he told the National Post in 2014.

Health Canada is currently reviewing 10 additional applications for Canadian injection sites, including three from Toronto, two from Surrey, B.C., one from Victoria, one from Ottawa and one for a mobile site in Montreal.

Neighbourhoods like the Downtown Eastside don’t happen by accident. Every community across Canada has addiction problems, but it’s only through years of poor planning that an out-of-control disaster like Vancouver’s starts to develop.

It is a noble and moral thing to prevent addicts from dying of overdoses in alleys and dingy apartments, and none of the problems cited above are reasons to not build a safe injection site. But it is perverse to look at the Downtown Eastside and claim that it is in any way a holistic success. It is palliative care on a mass scale; a system that can keep hearts from stopping, but little else.

Before cities throw in their lot with the “Vancouver model,” it’s important to understand the very strict limitations of what has been accomplished there — and to vociferously avoid all that has been done wrong.

Billythreefeathers
06-16-2017, 10:39 AM
you are simply aiding and abetting a life style choice

if you were serious about helping people you'd open a real treatment center and help them fight their addition

soulchaser
06-16-2017, 11:07 AM
Toronto council voted in favour of I think three "safe injection" sites.

Oddly enough, not a single one of them is located in the ward (riding) of a lefty dbag councillor who voted for the sites.

Funny how that worked out.

killer kane
06-16-2017, 03:52 PM
Same with redmonton, the scumbag clowncillours that push this crap, as well as boy mayor's toy train set, are lefty douche nozzles, totally removed from any of the reality of their causes.

DanN
06-16-2017, 04:23 PM
Hey! How about instead of try to improve some of the city’s lowest-income urban districts, let's make them even more undesirable by adding “safe consumption” sites for drugs! That'll really bring in the good crowds!

wolver
06-16-2017, 05:18 PM
Toronto council voted in favour of I think three "safe injection" sites.

Oddly enough, not a single one of them is located in the ward (riding) of a lefty dbag councillor who voted for the sites.

Funny how that worked out.

You need the drug sites where the druggies hang out. No sense in them having to bus it to the sites, spreading their AIDS and such. Keep it in the slums.

soulchaser
06-16-2017, 07:02 PM
You need the drug sites where the druggies hang out. No sense in them having to bus it to the sites, spreading their AIDS and such. Keep it in the slums.

Most of the lefty dbags on Toronto council represent wards with, um, highly "disadvantaged" neighbourhoods.

As an example, Pam McConnell who passed her best before date decades ago represents a good chunk of drug and gang infested Regent Park

Greglc
06-17-2017, 04:05 PM
As harsh this sounds, I said to my wife, there's an easy way to stop the fentynol crisis in vancouver and other cities, stop sending psremetics to administer narcan, let them die. Sounds harsh, but look at it this way, saves millions, frees up help for non drug users, but here's where it helps the fentynol crisis, addicts die, at 100+ per month, dealers would soon start to see a decline in sales and would want to go back to straght heroine.

Billythreefeathers
06-17-2017, 04:22 PM
As harsh this sounds, I said to my wife, there's an easy way to stop the fentynol crisis in vancouver and other cities, stop sending psremetics to administer narcan, let them die. Sounds harsh, but look at it this way, saves millions, frees up help for non drug users, but here's where it helps the fentynol crisis, addicts die, at 100+ per month, dealers would soon start to see a decline in sales and would want to go back to straght heroine.

there is never a shortage of customers for drugs of any description,, letting to present group simply die of an overdose doesn't solve the problem,, gangs and drug thugs always have lots more lined up for their drugs.

What needs to be done will never get done with this group of progressive save the whale eco freaks in power. You have to get the addicts out of the cycle of,, buy the drugs, use the drugs, commit crime to get money, buy the drugs,,, effective treatment not safe places to use the drugs

wolver
06-17-2017, 04:30 PM
As harsh this sounds, I said to my wife, there's an easy way to stop the fentynol crisis in vancouver and other cities, stop sending psremetics to administer narcan, let them die. Sounds harsh, but look at it this way, saves millions, frees up help for non drug users, but here's where it helps the fentynol crisis, addicts die, at 100+ per month, dealers would soon start to see a decline in sales and would want to go back to straght heroine.

Voting Liberal sure doesn't help.