I’ll preface by stating that I am in no way an expert on addiction issues. That stated, I have consulted fairly extensively with those possessing expertise and sat on the board overseeing Insite clinic in Vancouver. In my role on the IHA I had many discussions with experts in this area and this is what they tell me.
It’s no surprise to know the grip these addictions have on people. They have quite literally sacrificed everything of value in their life for the sake of their addition. For a street level user, they live on a 24 hour cycle.
Ideally, they wake up with their first hit of drugs and then beg/borrow/steal what they can to supply them with three more hits of the drug. One midday, one in the evening and on in reserve for the next morning so that the cycle can repeat. There is no planning, there is only the 24 hour cycle.
Once you provide the addict with a safe dose of what they are addicted to, they no longer have to spend every waking hour scrounging for the funds to buy more drugs.
This “Agonist Intervention Therapy” is exponentially cheaper than a single overdose hospitalization. You can quite literally provide an addict with a safe supply for a year at a fraction of what a single hospitalization costs.
Once an addict gets a steady safe supply, they are far more likely to seek treatment and be successful in treatment. There are no happy addicts just like there are no happy alcoholics or chain smokers.
They understand rationally what they need to do and the provision of a safe supply helps facilitate that. In addition, provision of a safe supply helps reduce and even eliminate drug seeking behavior …which is the real societal problem.
The drive by shootings, gang wars and petty crime associated with the drug trade are all related to the money that is made providing illegal drugs. Once a free safe supply is available, the business case for an illegal supply diminishes and it becomes a lot less profitable.
Much like giving a tobacco addict a nicotine patch, providing somebody with a safe supply of their addiction drug can actually be an important step to stability and recovery.
The same is true for alcohol. Canada has become a global leader in managed alcohol programs and countries around the world are now looking at what is called the “Canadian Model”. It reduces crime and produces better overall social outcomes. Police departments, initially skeptical, are fully endorsing and supporting this sites.
Like tobacco and alcohol addition, we need to treat every addiction as a medical rather than a legal problem. A focus on healthcare outcomes rather than the court system will ultimately produce a better and safer society. If jails worked, the Unites States would be the safest country on the planet (spoiler alert…..it isn’t).