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The Battle Over Safe Injection Sites

1960 words - 8 pages

Insite: The Battle over Supervised Injection Sites

In the 1990’s there was an epidemic of HIV outbreaks in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Injection drug users were found to be the leading cause of this, and a public health emergency was declared (Fafard, 2012). The “mortality and morbidity” resulting from this increasing injection drug use became a major political issue. This resulted in the adoption of harm reduction by the government as one of their four pillars of their drug strategy (Fafard, 2012). Harm reduction “is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use” (Boyd, 2013). In September 2003 Insite, North Americas ...view middle of the document...

There seems to be a serious disconnect between advocates of harm reduction strategies and the Canadian Government when it comes to the implementation of Safe Injection sites. Safe injection site advocates seem to draw on rational knowledge and scientific evidences whereas the Conservative government arguments draw on reasons that are more moral/ideological in nature. The main claims made by the Conservatives are that SISs encourage drug use instead of providing treatment, they are harmful to our communities and promote associated crime, they are not cost effective, and that it is not ethical for health care professionals to support the administration of illegal drugs (Collier, 2008). The overall intent of my essay will be to explore the ongoing Safe Injection Sites debate in Canada by looking at the government’s arguments and comparing them with the body of scientific evidence available.
One of the arguments presented by the Conservatives is that SIS facilities encourage or facilitate the use of drugs (Elliott et al., 2002). The underlying concern is that SISs send out the wrong messages to the wider public. By reducing harm individuals may be more enticed and more will engage in use, which will lead to the community of drug users increasing. Studies were done to evaluate whether the opening of Insite was accompanied by a worsening community of drug use patterns (Kerr et al., 2006) Unfortunately for the Conservatives all the studies done have shown no increase of drug users in the community (Potier et al., 2014). Taking away the harms of injecting drugs did not encourage increased drug use and did not increase their risks of overdosing (Kerr et al., 2006). There was also no increase of users relapsing into injection drug use, nor did it negatively influence those seeking to stop drug use (Kerr et al., 2006). The research shows that Insite has not promoted increased illicit drug injection, but rather it has attracted individuals with histories of injection drug use.
Another claim put forth by the Conservatives is that SISs are harmful to communities. They believe SISs create public nuisances, and threaten public safety (Broadhead, Kerr & Alice, 2002). Research on the other hand argues that SISs can address issues related to public. Since Insite opened the public has noticed less public injections, less syringe droppage, and less complaints about drug user nuisances (Potier et al., 2014). It also cleans up public environment such as streets and alleyways. Drug use is still an illicit activity and it takes place in unsterile environments such as behind dumpsters and shooting galleries. SISs provide sterile environments for users and are a lot safer than shooting up in the streets. This leads to less public injection and a better community environment (Potier et al., 2014). Local police data was also evaluated and there has been no increase in crime, violence, or drug trafficking around Insite. There were no significant statistical changes...

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