“You get used to it pretty quickly”

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Another day, another troubling headline.

If you believe that the access to “safer” drugs is the problem, maybe vending machines will “fix Vancouver’s drug crisis.”

For more than a decade, we’ve been told that Vancouver is the model the US should emulate. No North American city has been more aggressive in implementing harm reduction practices—safe injection rooms, heroin maintenance, hydromorphone (dilaudid) maintenance, crack pipe vending machines and, of course, all the less sensational forms of harm reduction.

So . . . all these years later, where are they at?

Last year, overdoses killed 1,422 people in British Columbia, the highest number ever, a 43 per cent increase over 2016.

Pretty discouraging.

The provincial CDC’s conclusion is that they have not gone far enough.

. . . sometime in the next several weeks, in March or April, Tyndall will launch a pilot program to distribute hydromorphone pills (a pharmaceutical narcotic derived from morphine) to registered users . . .

What’s it like there?

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, defined as a de facto colony for people who inject or smoke hard drugs, is smaller than it used to be—maybe half the 20 blocks it used to cover, with condo developments looming on all sides. On the warm January day when I visited, a lot of people are out, lining the sidewalks of East Hastings Street, a few side streets and many wide alleys off the main artery. Many are openly smoking or injecting drugs. It’s a shocking sight the first time you visit. You get used to it pretty quickly.

 

How many times does recovery come up in this article? 1 time, as a glib rebuttal that equates questioning the approach to malignant neglect.

“You can’t ask people to recover if they’re dead. But the stigma goes so deep that I think a lot of people go, ‘Well, who gives a ****? They die. Better for us. We don’t have to pay their medical bills.’ ”

What’s the animating belief? (emphasis mine)

Addiction, he says, is a chronic relapsing disease. Most addicts don’t stop.

If you believe that addicts don’t want to and are unable to stop, then this seems like a pragmatic and compassionate approach.

If you know that addicts hate their lives and that there is hope for recovery, this is very, very sad. If you know that the hopelessness of most addicts requires that professional helpers acts as hope carriers, this will make you angry.

This does not have to be an either/or matter. There is room for a both/and approach. However, as a casual observer, I have not seen BC public health officials, politicians, researchers, or policy advocates address the need and hope for recovery.

 



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