Pubdate: Sat, 09 Apr 2016
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: B. Mark Podolak
Page: B7


So far, most of the discussion of this proposal has centred on the 
health of the addicts, on one side, and the distaste and 
sanctimonious horror of neighbours, on the other. Let me suggest that 
we look at this proposal on a purely financial basis.

At a lecture I attended recently, an official of the Ottawa Hospital 
pointed out that the cost to the health system of caring for a 
so-called street person is in the order of $125,000 a year, with many 
street people also being drug addicts. The use and sharing of dirty 
needles cause infections and the spread of disease, which then add 
significant costs to the health system. Clean needles used in a clean 
environment don't.

I haven't seen any estimates of the cost of running the proposed 
injection site but I expect that it will be in the order of $250,000 
a year for a nurse and for supplies. If the site keeps even half a 
dozen addicts from overusing the health system, the cost savings will 
more than pay for its operation. Given that there are more than 5,000 
users of injection drugs in Ottawa, the savings to the taxpayer 
should be considerable.

Now let's follow that money trail a bit farther. What is the cost to 
society of a drug addict? A quick search on the Internet reveals that 
heroin or cocaine addicts need about $10,000 a year to purchase 
drugs. Where do they get the money? Most don't have jobs. The obvious 
answers are prostitution, the selling of drugs, and theft.

Let's assume that the theft is in the form of burglary. Burglars need 
to translate their stolen goods into cash and the going rate from a 
fence is said to be 10 per cent of the value of the asset. That means 
that the addict must steal $100,000 worth of goods a year to manage 
his or her drug needs.

That's $100,000 gone from society right off, but then you have to add 
the costs to the insurance industry and the cost of a police and 
justice system response.

As a taxpayer, I say, let's simply close down the status quo. Let's 
not just have safe injection sites; let's treat drug addicts like 
sick people and GIVE them the drugs that they need to survive.

 From a financial point of view, that would be far less expensive 
than enduring the costs to society of 5,000 addicts scrambling to 
find the money to buy illegal drugs. The same drugs purchased legally 
and in bulk by the government would be cheap. As a side benefit, the 
amount of petty crime would be reduced with a commensurate drop in 
the costs to the legal system and the freeing up of police resources 
for other purposes.

Yes, some would abuse the new system and either overdose or sell the 
drugs to others, but from a financial point of view, an overdosed 
drug addict would no longer be a cost to society and the selling of a 
small portion of the now legally supplied drugs should be handle-able 
by the police and by a Draconian response to anyone who does sell drugs.

So, to misquote Nancy Reagan, let's "Just say yes."

B. Mark Podolak, Ottawa
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