Aimed at curtailing the high incidence of high HIV and Hepatitis B and C and eventually reducing the number of drug users Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (a notorious stretch known for flagrant drug use and crime), authorities in Canada have taken the unusual proactive move of handing out free crack pipes.
By providing shatter proof (yes that day has arrived…) and heat resistant crack pipes authorities are hoping going forward there will be a reduction in injuries to user’s lips and mouths and in turn less of a chance of spreading HIV or Hepatitis. At the same time of handing out crack pipes will be literature and services for those seeking help to get off their addiction.
Announced last August, pipes began being disseminated this past December, with the total cost of the project to cost $60 000. Also being given away are mouthpieces, filters, alcohol swabs, screens and push sticks (to of course help scrape the resin out of one’s crack pipe).
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority spokeswoman Trudi Beutel asserts that such action in the very immediate will ensure disease protection.
‘It’s about preventing more communicable diseases which land these people in hospital on a frequent basis and clog up emergency rooms.’
With crack use enjoying a resurgency in the neighborhood authorities have felt compelled to deal with the issue head on and see by offering convenient services for users (how many will openly come forward is yet to be seen, at present 70-90 a day are handed out) who they will then attempt to ween off and steer towards detox services.
Adds Ms Beutel: ‘It will also help us measure the number of crack smokers in Vancouver and provide insight into crack addiction.’
That said, not everyone is particularly convinced the program will work. Reflects David Brener, director of the Canada’s Drug Prevention Network:
‘All this does is aid and abet. What we should do is put that same amount of money into treatment and prevention. Because treatment and prevention work.’
Reflects another commentator: No addict, whether drugs or alcohol, ever gives up their habit until they hit absolute rock bottom, The plethora of social agencies and do gooders in the downtown eastside of Vancouver enables drug abusers to avoid rock bottom virtually indefinitely and ensures that the cycle will continue. The social agencies need drug abusers to justify their existence and drug abusers need the social agencies to allow them to continue their habits. I suspect the percentage of drug addicts who get clean in this system is a fraction of one percent. Continuing to throw money at social agencies will only perpetuate the problem. The consequences of drug abuse must be harsh before addicts will seek help. Then, and only then, help must be made available.
Of course a deeper understanding of what compels addiction is necessary in stemming the latest rise in hard drug use, from brain chemical dependency, emotional and psychological displacement and the reinforced culture at large. Time will tell if the program will deal with drug addiction and gaining the trust of addicts. Nominally one can expect less incidence of HIV/ and hepatitis. After all shatter proof crack pipes are hard to come by, but unfortunately the above diseases are not. At the very least enabling dialogue as to the root of addiction and the debilitating consequences of it are a sign in the right direction….