Pubdate: Tue, 28 Nov 2000
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2000 Southam Inc.
Contact:  300 - 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3R5
Fax: (416) 442-2209
Author: Craig M.F. Jones, Ph.D
Bookmark: Harm Reduction


Your editorial A Pillar Too Far, (Nov. 22) argues that providing safe 
injection rooms, free housing and heroin for Vancouver's drug addicts goes 
too far -- in effect undermining Mayor Philip Owen's drug strategy. But 
Mayor Owen is simply keeping his eye on the ball while your editorial 
misses the game completely.

Whatever we think about drug abuse, or drug abusers, the brute facts are 
that HIV and Hepatitis C are spread through needle sharing -- and these 
blood-borne infections are orders of magnitude more costly to treat and 
more threatening to public health than addiction to heroin or cocaine. That 
is because they reach beyond the drug user to innocents with whom drug 
users inevitably come into contact. Drug addiction harms only the addicted.

Mayor Owen's strategy -- which is copied from the successful Dutch, Swiss 
and German harm-reduction models -- simply acknowledges that transmission 
of HIV and hep-C are the greater dangers to public well-being. It may be 
worth attracting drug users from other parts of the province, and even the 
country, if it enables health professionals to contain the spread of HIV 
and Hep-C. The status quo "drug war" strategy only exacerbates problems 
associated with drug use. Let's try the European strategy. If it makes the 
situation worse, we can always return to what isn't working now.

Harm reduction, which is the principle underlying the Mayor's strategy, 
keeps its eye on the ball. Your editorial, to change metaphors, misses the 

Craig M.F. Jones, Ph.D, Kingston, Ont.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager