Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Enabling drug addicts


Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Vancouver’s Insite program, where addicts can “fix” in a “safe” environment.   As a result of this ruling, other Canadian cities may follow suit, to the delight of some and the significant uneasiness of others. So as not to be close-minded about the idea, a friend of mine suggested maybe Ottawa should be next in line for an Insite, and proposed an ideal location: an underused spacious building in the Ottawa city core on Wellington Street where Insite could be opened on the same floor as offices that are in temporary use. The building is called the Supreme Court of Canada. This way, our cabal of esteemed justices can experience first-hand the profoundly beneficial societal effects of their latest decision. Wishful thinking, no doubt. Most of us realize the next Insite will be in some neighbourhood far removed from the environs of the Supreme Court offices. The true and practical repercussions on a community will no doubt be some average working stiff’s problem. Like it or not, addicts are responsible for inordinate amounts of crime. Any recovered addict will openly tell you, drug addiction dehumanizes to the point where there is no concern for oneself, and thus no empathy or concern for anyone else. The only purpose and urge is to obtain the next fix, the next high, through any means necessary. It doesn’t matter who gets hurt. This very point is made every day in courtrooms across this country, in support of leniency for those claiming to be under the influence of various chemical intoxicants when committing their crimes. Insite, and programs like it, enables addicts to fix more frequently in an environment that protects from arrest, ensures medical treatment will be on hand to deal with overdose, and provide the necessary mechanics to inject (needles, etc.). The program reduces negative consequence to extremely dangerous behaviour and it becomes much more comfortable to be an addict. Does anyone seriously think this will somehow cause addicts to surrender their addictions? Hardly. We intuitively understand addictions will be attenuated. The only thing accomplished is fostering an environment that implies a societal acceptance of drug addiction. Addicts are now more comfortably able to destroy themselves by degrees. If this is where we are headed, why not just remove the middle man and have taxpayers supply the drugs, too? I seriously wonder if this isn’t the ultimate goal. Most recovering addicts I have spoken to only changed because they had finally realized there was no lower to go: it was rehab or death. Given the limited resources in these challenging economic times, why not use our funds to create greater rehab opportunities? Funding true rehabilitation seems to me to be an altogether better idea, benefitting both society and addict. In the meanwhile, we’re left to wonder where the next Insite will arrive, thanks to the ruling of judges that will never get anywhere near being confronted by the street level consequences of their decision.