Pubdate: Tue, 16 Apr 2002
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Dr. David C. Marsh
Note: Parenthetical remark provided by the Sun editor; headline provided by 


YOUR RECENT series on homelessness has called attention to the need to 
provide care for people living on the street who have addiction and mental 
health problems. In addition, addressing the causes of homelessness 
including lack of affordable housing, insufficient social assistance levels 
and inadequate support is critically important.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), through two of its 
founding organizations, the Addiction Research Foundation and the Donwood 
Institute, has many years of experience in providing treatment for 
addiction, including those based on an abstinence model.

We know that abstinence does not work for everyone. Good research evidence 
shows that harm reduction strategies offer practical alternatives to at 
least reduce some of the negative consequences of substance use for people 
for whom treatment, prevention or criminal sanctions have not succeeded.

Needle exchange programs are often the first point of contact the homeless 
have with a care provider and the first step toward getting the services 
they desperately need.

Programs like methadone maintenance that reduce the harm to substance users 
benefit the entire community through reduced crime and public disorder, in 
addition to helping people who were previously marginalized live productive 

Rather than dismissing harm reduction strategies as "trendy" and 
ineffective, when many of them are clearly successful, we should be calling 
upon government and others to fund the development, trial, evaluation and 
implementation of harm reduction strategies for those with substance abuse 
problems and the communities in which they live.

Dr. David C. Marsh

Clinical Director,

Addiction Medicine

University of Toronto

(Sure, why not. It's only money)
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