Report Urges Canadian Government to Establish ‘Safe Injection Sites’ for Intravenous Drug Users
A report released on Thursday by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network recommends that the Canadian government establish "safe injection sites where drug users can inject drugs with clean needles under the supervision of trained staff" to decrease the number of overdoses and HIV and hepatitis C cases among drug users, the Canadian Press reports. According to the 68-page report, the sites could "provide a gateway for counseling programs" and treatment, but the report does not make any specific recommendations on what kind of counseling or treatment services should be offered. The report also states that the sites should be open to people under the age of 18 and pregnant women. According to the report, injection sites already operating in Australia, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands "appear to be accepted" and have proven effective in reducing overdoses. However, the report does not include information on the sites' efficacy in reducing HIV and hepatitis C transmission (Bueckert, Canadian Press, 4/11). In Canada, injection drug use is most prevalent in Vancouver, which has experienced more than 2,000 overdose deaths in the last decade.
Establishing such sites does not constitute an endorsement of illegal drug use, the report says, adding, "It is misguided to view injection facilities as a panacea or even a stand-alone measure ... but they are worth trying." Creating the sites would "require changes" to Canada's drug laws, including measures to exempt staff and clients from drug possession laws (Reuters, 4/11). The Canadian Press reports that the study "reflects a widespread view among drug abuse experts that prohibitionist policies don't work and should be replaced by a 'harm-reduction' approach." However, Susan Brandt, an addiction therapist at Ottawa Innercity Ministries, said there is "no evidence" to prove such an approach is any more effective than traditional drug treatment. "It's the beginning, I believe, of a new type of warehousing," Brandt said, adding, "We want to make these people disappear [and] put them somewhere" (Canadian Press, 4/11).