50 years of drug addiction

Canada’s National Post recently ran a scathing criticism of Vancouver’s embrace of harm reduction:

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan recently announced a supposedly innovative proposal to supply addicts with legal forms of illegal drugs (heroin, crack cocaine and crystal meth) in pill form. Sullivan naively claims the delivery system is the core of the addiction problem, and is determined to change the drug culture of “depending on needles.”

This is innovative thinking, indeed. Common sense suggests the drug is the problem, and the culture of drug dependence is what needs to change. And the best way to change an epidemic rooted in a particular behaviour, is to change the behaviour.

But common sense isn’t “innovative” enough for those who are charged with resolving Vancouver’s drug problem, yet obsessed with doing anything they can to facilitate drug use.

The success of Sullivan’s plan ultimately depends on how that is defined. If the end goal is to give addicts a new chance at life and help them to become functioning members of society, then it will fail. On the other hand, if the end goal is to keep an entire population of humans in a dysfunctional state, consumed by a need for drugs and wandering the streets in pharmaceutical oblivion, then it’s exactly what Vancouver needs. Job done.

History shows that years of compassionate chatter and political solutions (that only give the appearance of doing something) have done little to evoke any real change in the DES. In 1959, there were just four detox beds available. In 2007, there are 23 beds available downtown and only six of those are for women. One organization has another 24 beds ready, but can’t get government funding for operating costs.

The only way to change Vancouver’s drug culture is through treatment. That means detox beds, long-term treatment centres located away from the DES, long-term social support and instruction in life skills and trades.

The last thing an addict needs is a substitute drug. It’s a pathetic, callous alternative to implementing the meaningful measures that can transform both individuals and the DES into a functioning society. – Susan Martinuk is a Vancouver columnist.

Al Arsenault, a retired DES police officer who has made award-winning documentaries of life there, says the policy is “selling human potential down the road.” He knows the addicts by name and says, “They don’t need drugs, they need treatment. If Sullivan wants to change the drug culture, he has to fix the addict first.”

I agree. Harm reduction waves the white flag of surrender, abandons an entire population to a lifetime of despair.

The Netherlands continues to deal with the partially living products of its state-sponsored harm reduction programs. It must now provide specialized housing for ageing addicts who, in their 30s and 40s, are experiencing medical problems common to those in their 80s. These “elderly addicts” are maintained on drugs while they wait for death to come.

One thought on “50 years of drug addiction

  1. As a licensed psychologist with 30 years experience working with addicts and alcoholics, I am appalled by Mayor Sullivan’s approach to “cleaning up Vancouver.” Historically, programs which provide safer/legal drugs to addicts have failed to secure the desired effect, namely the elimination of crime associated with illegal drug use. Methodone clinics often become heartbeds of crime and even violence. IV heroin drugs users who are given methodone report that the “rush” they experienced with “shooting up” is missing and the high from this so-called legal substitute just doesn’t give them the desired effect they crave. They often report that it is more pleasurable for them to find a way to get the methadone out of the clinic, sell it on the street and replace this legal substitute with street heroin. This brings the problem full circle as they once again return to illegal activites. In addition, those few who stick with the methadone often spend years of their lives hooked on this substitute resulting in failing health and life-long dependency, with no hope at recovery. These people need intervention, detox, education and treatment in the form of 12-step programs and therapy to help them back to the world of healthy living and away from the life of crime and ill-health which goes along with illegal drugs use.

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