Saturday, November 1, 2008

Safe Injection Site Science

Mr. Harper,

I am sad to see that irrational ideology has once again blinded your government from seeing consensus opinions from the scientific community. You and your government have let your ideas about drugs blind you to a greater public health threat and as such have been working to find reasons to close down Insite, the safe injection site for drug users in Vancouver's Lower East Side.

As early as 2007 researchers looking into the efficacy of the safe injection site model of public health had produced much evidence from sound scientific research to show that safe injection sites reduce harm to drug users and the community by allowing street-level social workers to meet with drug users and help them to prevent the transmission of HIV, Hepatitis C and prevent overdoses of drugs like heroin, cocaine and speed.

This was an approach that came from the streets. From people who were tired of seeing people destroy themselves and others through their addictions and who found a way to reduce the harm that dirty needles and unsafe sex posed. This was not an ideological approach, this was a realistic approach and it has had led to a real reduction in the spread of HIV and Hep C and lessened the number of overdoses in that area. Even more, it has put the people most in need in contact with addiction counsellors and in methadone programs to help them kick the habit; a process that any alcoholic or smoker will tell you is long, painful and arduous.

It appears, however, that your government has chosen to disregard this research and discount it by saying studies are inconclusive, as was said by your health minister Tony Clement last year when many of the studies were published. And why? I can only imagine that you think that punishment and law enforcement are the only sticks with which the government need act, that beating the addict with the justice system and locking him or her up will solve the problem. Who do you turn to for an example? The U.S Government and their failed War on Drugs which as seen an increase in drug use over its lifetime and has resulted in a department of corrections which is bulging at the seams with drug users, being kept daily by the public purse.

But that won't stop you, oh no, you won't let something like facts get in the way of your ideological approach to governing. I suppose you would like to use my tax money to lock people up instead of helping them. On the one hand you purport to be a champion for personal freedom and the free market while you take away the ability of drug addicts to make good health choices by attempting to close the one thing that will help them get better and keep them healthy while they do so.

I call upon your government to listen to the people. To listen to the good science that is being done. To listen to the people who are making an honest effort to protect communities through prevention. To listen to the addicts and sex workers who need your help.

Above all, not to stop your ears from the very public you have sworn to represent and protect.

Lead, Mr. Harper. Lead this country through rational decision making, not ideology. Don't let your own biases kill those who need you most.


Michael Kruse

see: the journal Open Medicine for an editorial on Insite and the recent Globe and Mail article

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