Letter: Use reliable info to assess safe injection sites

"…it’s important for us to put aside our emotional response, at least long enough to analyze the facts."

To the editor:

I can certainly understand the initial negative reaction that many people would have towards the idea of safe injection sites. It seems like a counter-intuitive initiative that enables addicts instead of helping them. Additionally, it’s fair to worry that providing services to addicts normalizes illegal drug-use, opposed to affirming the idea that it’s a problem.

However, as an educated society with endless access to a wealth of information, it’s important for us to put aside our emotional response, at least long enough to analyze the facts.

The fact of the matter is that safe injection sites have proven to provide many benefits for both users and the general public. Or in the words of scholars, ‘harm-reduction’ is significant. Thanks to Vancouver and other cities which have tested the concept, we have the information available to form an educated opinion that goes beyond our emotional reaction.

What we first need to understand is the idea of harm-reduction. Obviously, in a perfect world no one would use illegal and harmful drugs. While that should continue to be the ultimate goal, there are actions we can take to reduce the amount of harm that these activities cause both users and society as a whole.

For drug users, benefits include a reduced rate in morbidity, reduced rate in mortality, reduced crime rate, and an increase in the number of people seeking help for their addiction. Safe injection sites ensure that they are not contracting and spreading infections/diseases, they’re not taking too much, and gives them a better chance at staying out of jail. Additionally, the facility gives drug users a direct connection to addiction treatment and the opportunity to pursue healing. If the well-being of the most broken within our society isn’t enough to convince you, maybe the societal benefits are.

As substantial as the benefits are for addicts, the list of positives for the community are much more abundant. Reduced crime rates are obviously good for us, plus we’ll see a significant reduction in public injections, and a substantial decrease in discarded syringes (and we all know that dirty needles are every parent’s worst nightmare).

On top of making our downtown safer for tourists and families, the site will prove to be a valuable investment that saves our healthcare money. Clean supplies mean a significant decrease in HIV and hepatitis C infections (along with a whole other host of possible infections).

While it does cost money to run the safe injection site, those costs pale in comparison to the cost of treating and preventing the spread of HIV, hep C, and other infections/diseases. In years to come, the investment will prove to save the taxpayers money, just as it has in Vancouver.

I would encourage the community to read as many studies as possible on this subject and make an effort to understand the real impact this initiative would have on our downtown. More likely than not, the effects will be positive for both addicts and civilians alike.

Some sources:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13195/abstract

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/171/7/731.long

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/179/11/1143.long

http://www.uclamls.com/2016/05/benefits-of-supervised-injection-sites-for-heroin-users/

Ally Turner, Kelowna