Harm Intensification

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Overdose Deaths Outpacing Homicides in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia News reported Monday that despite the city having seen one of its deadliest weekends, drug overdoses, particularly from a batch of heroin laced with the even more powerful opiate fentanyl are claiming even more lives. The important thing to remember is that heroin users aren't dying simply because fentanyl is more potent than heroin. They are dying because the substance they are buying on the black market is more powerful than they believe it to be -- they think they are getting heroin, or if they're not sure they crave their fix so strongly that they are willing to take the chance. The illegal drug supply is uncertain in this way, because it is illegal, and for no other reason. Among legalization's many benefits will be increased safety for users, particularly addicts, and fewer accidental deaths. Send a letter to the editor to [email protected].
Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States

Police: Maryland Has Tainted Heroin

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0706/345220.html

Greens Call for Heroin Import Trial (Australia)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,19815713-5005961,00.html

Prosecutors take a tough line on cannabis supplied to ease pain (UK)

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Guardian
URL: 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,,1822253,00.html

Vancouver MP Libby Davies Urges Campaign to Save Safe Injection Site

INSITE, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside safe injection site, is in danger of being shut down after September 12 if the new conservative health minister doesn't reapprove it. Here's the email MP Libby Davies sent out today: Dear friends, I am writing you today regarding the fate of INSITE, North America’s first supervised safe injection facility. As you may know, this program started as a three-year study in September of 2003, and the results have been incredibly impressive. INSITE has reduced public injections, reduced the transmission of blood-borne infections like HIV and Hepatitis C, and reduced the number of injection-related infections. Most significantly, however, is that of 453 overdoses at INSITE, not one has resulted in a fatality. This is strong evidence of the success that this project has had in reducing the harm to drug-users. However, despite its successes, INSITE is at risk of closing down. The facility exists because of an exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. If Health Minister Tony Clement does not renew this exemption, this facility will close down as of September 12th of this year. Therefore, I am urging you to take action. If you believe that INSITE should continue, then please let Tony Clement know! His email address is: [email protected] Please send me a copy of your email to the Health Minister if you decide to write, and also send a copy to [email protected]. I have included some recent letters that I have written to Prime Minister Harper and Health Minister Clement below for reference. You can also get additional information about the facility at “Insite for Community Safety” (www.communityinsite.ca). If we can speak with one voice, we can let this government know how people really feel about this important program. I thank you for your continued support! Yours sincerely, Libby Davies MP, Vancouver East
Location: 
United States

Australian MP Says Raves Safer Than Hotel Bars, Urges Pill Testing Programs

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.theadvertiser.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19698296%255E910,00.html

Canada: In Harm Reduction Bid, Vancouver Police to Stay Away From Overdose Calls

In a bid to reduce drug overdose deaths, police in Vancouver will no longer show up along with paramedics at drug overdose calls. That has already been unofficial practice for the past two years, but at a June 14 meeting, the Vancouver Police board voted to make it part of the department's official policy.

Citing Australian research that showed a police presence actually increased the likelihood of overdose deaths, Vancouver police suggested that if drug users do not fear arrest, they will be less reluctant to contact authorities in the event of an overdose, and in December 2003 began staying away from ODs. After a series of consultation with community groups, including the drug user group Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), the practice became established, if informal, policy by the end of the following year.

"Research presented at a Heroin Overdose Prevention Conference in Seattle in 2000 revealed that despite the fact that half of overdose cases are witnessed by another person, the greatest barrier in obtaining emergency medical help was the fear that police would attend and lay charges for drug use," wrote Vancouver Police Inspector Ken Frail at the time. "Rather than face police intervention, many witnesses to a drug overdose would respond in an inappropriate way. Sometimes a victim would be dropped in a public place hoping they would be found, sometimes an incomplete phone call would be made and the caller would leave before medical help arrived. Sometimes the overdose victim would be abandoned," he noted.

"Vancouver Police recognize that drug overdose cases are primarily medical emergencies requiring rapid response," Frail explained. "The new policy tends to restrict police attendance at overdose calls except in cases where public safety requires police attendance. The police role at a drug overdose call is clarified as 'assisting with life saving measures and public safety.'"

It worked for Vancouver in 2004 and 2005, and now the Police Board has made it official policy. It is a harm reduction measure American cities would do well to consider emulating.

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