If heroin addicts don’t have access to a long-term residential drug addiction treatment center they sometimes turn to solutions that simply reduce the potential harm caused by the addiction. Safe injections sites are a prime example. Insite, the first safe injection site in North America, is now under attack by Canada’s Minister of Health, who thinks these sites condone heroin addiction. But at the same time, he’s withholding funding for a drug addiction treatment center that could really handle the problem. Where is an addict to turn?
A safe injection site is just what it sounds like – heroin addicts go to the location to shoot up. They bring their own drugs, and inject them at the site. So, how is that a step in the right direction? The addicts use clean needles and thereby lower their risk of HIV, AIDS and hepatitis (and the possibility of those being spread to others), used needles don’t wind up littering the streets where they can, and will be, used by someone else, and since the addicts are shooting up in the presence of staff who watch over them, the number of overdose deaths is reduced.
True, that doesn’t handle heroin addiction; for that you need a long-term residential drug rehab center. But it does reduce the harm to both the addict and others, it exposes heroin addicts to people who they might never be in contact with otherwise who will try to guide them into the treatment that will end their addiction, and it reduces health care and other costs for the city.
Insite, located in Vancouver, Canada, has come under attack more than once and is currently under the fire of Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Health. Clement argues that Insite does nothing to handle the heroin addiction problem and, in fact, encourages it.
While there’s no doubt that getting people into a drug addiction treatment center is the only way to handle heroin addiction, anyone who thinks a safe injection site is going to turn people into heroin addicts or even encourage them to continue doesn’t understand the heroin addiction problems these sites are trying to resolve.
First of all, absolutely no one is going to get addicted to heroin because there’s some safe place they can shoot up. Second, the people these sites deals with aren’t people who have decided to end their heroin addiction, they’re people who either are not up to that at all or who have tried but been unsuccessful – which is the case with 95% of heroin addicts who make the attempt. And there are plenty of them.
Clement says he wants something that will really handle heroin addiction. Nevertheless, he’s trying to cut heroin addicts off the from the only contact they have in their lives that might make that possible and, worse, he’s dragging his feet on funding the type of addiction treatment that can really handle the problem.
The British Columbia government has pledged $2.4 million to finance a long-term residential drug addiction treatment center that is to begin accepting people for treatment in January. A request has also been made to the federal government for $2 million to help with the funding but, after a year, it still hasn’t been approved. If Clement is so hot on ending heroin addiction, where’s the money?