Pubdate: Thu, 22 Feb 2018
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Luke Swenson
Page: A12


Re: Opioid vending machines won't help B.C.'s addicts. Jeremy Devine, 
Feb. 14 This piece, written by my classmate, Jeremy Devine, contains 
misinformation and stigma. I felt compelled to write a response because 
his views do not reflect mine or those of many of our fellow medical 
school classmates at the University of Toronto.

The article suggests that British Columbia's harm reduction approach
is some ill-conceived mistake that jeopardizes the lives of people who
use drugs. In fact, Mr. Devine's ideological stance is not based on
evidence, and if enacted, could endanger countless lives.

Like many British Columbians, I have seen firsthand the impact of harm
reduction efforts. In particular, the B. C. Centre for Excellence in
HIV/AIDS and other organizations lead the world in harm reduction
research. Their work has demonstrated again and again that harm
reduction saves lives. Dr. Brandon Marshall demonstrated that
Vancouver's supervised injection facility Insite led to fewer
overdoses in the Downtown Eastside.

We must centre our strategies on high-quality evidence and the lived
experiences of people who use drugs. The issue is not some theoretical
academic debate; real lives are at risk if we continue with the status
quo. Having compassion and realistic approaches for people who use
opioids is not "giving up" on them. No one disputes that treatment for
addictions should attempt to help people move past their addiction and
lead healthier lives. But a central pillar of addictions treatment is
harm reduction.

Preventing the unnecessary deaths of Canadians should be at the fore
of our approach to the opioid epidemic. We must do all we can to keep
our fellow Canadians who are struggling with addiction alive. Anything
less would be giving up on them.

Luke Swenson, fourth year medical student at the University of Toronto
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