Skip to main content

Harm Reduction: Yet Another Study Finds Vancouver's Safe Injection Site Benefits Users Without Harming Community

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #462)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Canada's only safe injection site, Insite, located in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, has not led to increased crime or drug use despite the fears of detractors, but has reduced the risk of overdoses and encouraged more users to seek drug treatment, according to the latest study of the publicly-funded harm reduction program. The study, published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is only the latest to find that the experimental program is benefiting hard drug users while not harming the community.

Insite brochure
In a one-year period in 2004 and 2005, some 320 clients were referred for drug treatment, the report found. Some 600 clients use the site every day to inject drugs under medical supervision. According to the report, 197 drug overdoses occurred at the site, but none of them were fatal.

Despite a raft of studies demonstrating that Insite is doing what is was supposed to do (and not doing what it wasn't), the Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper remains opposed to further funding the site or allowing the project to expand to other cities. Last summer, in the face of a strong, community-based campaign to support Insite, Health Canada grudgingly agreed to extend funding through the end of 2007. But supporters had sought a three-year extension.

"By all criteria, the Vancouver facility has both saved lives and contributed toward the decreased use of illicit drugs and the reduced spread of HIV infection and other blood-borne infections," Mark Wainberg, the director of the McGill University AIDS Centre in Montreal, wrote in a commentary published alongside the study.

"We've demonstrated numerous benefits associated with the site and we've also ruled out negative impacts," said Dr. Thomas Kerr of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, a lead researcher on the safe injection site. "Drug use patterns didn't get worse. Crime didn't go up. People thought it would encourage drug use and enable drug use when in fact, we found there has been a large entry of people into detox programs."

The Harper government has been wrongheaded in opposing the safe injection site, moving to cut funding when it should be expanding the program, the report said. "The federal governments should draft legislation to allow other such facilities to operate elsewhere in Canada," the researchers concluded.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Dear People 11/25/06
Awhile ago, it came to my attention that population reduction planning in the US state dept. office of population affairs is in full swing. Henry Kissinger's final solution ultimatum? either a country accepted the socioeconomic paradigm that reduced population by 1/3rd or he and his fiends were going to start a civil war and do it that way. See you in hell, henry.
Lyle Courtsal
PS you sure that Gordon Campbell is a liberal; last time I checked he was a tory; no big difference though there. the liberals just give you vaseline without sand when they're fucking you out of everything you have.

Sat, 11/25/2006 - 5:26pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Medical and Government people all over the world have thanked whatever powers that be for anything that would reduce their suffering from certain death-dealing ailments. Smallpox is under control, syphilis could have been conquered if those powers that be had persevered, infections are now mostly a minor thing.
The greatest dangers within the drug addiction sphere, aside from the police, who are themselves a parasite and a virus, if that makes sense, are the unknown strength of a street dose and untreated infections.
A safe, clean place to inject, if such is our choice, is the surest way to keep us off the red list in ERs.
Medical advice can include what has become my favoursite: If you don't use drugs don't start. If you do, cut down.
Some of the stuff we get from college grads who have read all the books has made me laugh so hard I p..d myself. Words of wisdom from experts in remission or from those who really care if we live or die can make that one little difference that saves us. A safe injection site pays for itself over and over. Harm reduction is a true human value.

Mon, 01/22/2007 - 11:37pm Permalink
JunkieNowOnMethadone (not verified)

As a former IV drug user, I am strongly in favor of any strategy based on the principals of harm reduction. I spent the bulk of the last decade putting anything that would work with a syringe, especially opiates, into my arm. I went from a colllege student with a 31 ACT to a junkie living in the floor of some dude that I met in jail in about 7 years.
I started methadone maintainance treatment (MMT) about 3 1/2 years ago.
Since then, I have seperated from my wife who was unable to lay down the needle.
I still help her obtain clean syringes. She pays for them - about $0.15 per, but for some reason that I cannot wrap my mind around, she doesn't seem to understand how to do this. Seems to me that if she is unwilling to give up the spike, it's better that she has sterile and sharp points rather than dull and possibly contaminated ones.
Certainly I wanted to be as safe as I could while engeged in IV drug use.

Sat, 06/19/2010 - 5:58am Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.