Pubdate: Mon, 05 May 2003
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Vancouver Courier
Author: Dr. Evan Wood


To the editor:

Re: "Cop Kudo," Kudos & Kvetches, April 27.

As someone who has spent considerable energy weighing the science
around public health and illicit drug use, I find the Courier's
characterization of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU)
as a "pro-slum, pro-drug lobby" appallingly inaccurate.

In Canada, it is estimated that 95 per cent of federal expenditures
aimed at addressing the drug problem go to enforcement-based approaches.

Locally, this translates into thousands of addicts in B.C., but only a
few dozen drug treatment beds.

The apportionment of resources to police instead of drug treatment
persists despite the fact that every cost-effectiveness study ever
conducted has shown providing drug treatment to be many times more
beneficial to society than enforcement.

Contrary to the Courier's statements, VANDU's volunteers work
tirelessly to fight the status quo, not to maintain it.

With regards to the Courier's advocacy for more law enforcement, there
is a large body of evidence that enforcement-based efforts, when
conducted without drug treatment and HIV prevention services in place,
are highly problematic because they drive users into unsafe
environments and away from health services so that the spread of
disease is exacerbated.

Sadly, given that each and every case of HIV is estimated to cost the
taxpayer over $150,000 in medical expenses, it is not just the drug
users that should be speaking out.

Dr. Evan Wood,

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