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LETTER – Every addiction should be a medical matter, not a legal one

(Image: Pixabay.com)

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.

https://caep.ca/periodicals/Volume_21_Issue_4/Vol_21_Issue_4_Page_443_-_445_Kestler.pdf

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_alcohol_program

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).

JOHN O’FEE

About Mel Rothenburger (9054 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on LETTER – Every addiction should be a medical matter, not a legal one

  1. John Noakes // June 30, 2022 at 5:31 AM // Reply

    “Addiction” issues are a hybrid issue; the impact on innocent people cannot be ignored.

  2. Excellent article John. I’m not sure where the “Canada is a leader in alcohol” part comes from. But your points on safe supply and the rationale is very compelling.
    Unless the government starts to monetize it, like they do with weed and booze.
    I’m glad you’re bringing this to the table.

  3. Agree completely, and it comes down to the simple fact; A steady safe supply, equals time for the person to access proper rehab services instead of focusing entirely on the next 24 hours fixes.

    The problem tho … is two fold:

    – there is a heavily supported political agenda that cycles on the rhetoric that a steady safe supply means only a tax supported and ‘govt run drug dealer model’ … and that’s supposedly bad, even though as O’Fee here accurately explains why it isn’t … that doesn’t matter … the rhetoric cycling happy campers cant allow themselves to be proven wrong … so its ‘la la, I cant hear you’ time,

    – And the systemic reality is that we don’t have, nor are planning on creating anywhere near enough beds, facilities and care teams to admit the long line of people who will become available for recovery … because they are freed up from the 24 hour cycle of street drug dependency.

    We just don’t have the capacity to put all these people through a system that a safe supply will produce. The waiting list this creates, from a continuous govt funded drug supply, bumps a well thought out program roll out, into the next election cycle, and you just know that it would be a hot button, black and white voting issue forced by the opposition … today the easily inflamed BC Liberal Party that are after conservative votes.

    So … its a cyclical problem. We have voters (and politicians who want those votes) who don’t want the model because they need to discard medical and human behaviour logic, and a system that cant medically respond to the model properly, if it was in place.

  4. I sat in a virtual conference on addiction this past January. All the experts that spoke during the conference, including esteemed addiction expert and physician DR. Gabor Mate’, did mention that trauma is the ubiquitous underlying condition for addiction. Because, fine to give a safe drug supply to current addicts but most importantly is, in the long term, avoid having to give it in the first place. I wonder if a discussion could be had on that.

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