Vancouver’s Drug Strategy

I have a hard time seeing this as a success:

Vancouver is into its second decade of dealing with an injected-drug crisis. The city has been concentrating more and more services in its Downtown Eastside. The result? Everything seems to be getting worse.

Homelessness numbers continue to rise. There were 2,138 homeless individuals in Vancouver in 2017  — compared to only 1,364 in 2005. Theft and violent crime in the Downtown Eastside have gone up since 2002. And as an overdose crisis sweeps Canada, Vancouver is its undisputed epicentre. Even with teams of naloxone-armed paramedics addressing a nightly rush of overdosed drug users, more than 100 people have died of overdoses in 2017 — with most of these occurring within the narrow borders of the Downtown Eastside.

And yet, all across the continent planners can be heard talking up Vancouver’s success on the addiction file.

They’re usually pointing to the success of Insite, which was established in 2003 as North America’s first safe injection site. …

And Insite’s supporters are right; safe-injection sites are good at what they do. But they really only do one thing: prevent people from dying.

It does not seem to reduce crime. There is slim evidence to show that it reduces overall addiction rates. And it certainly doesn’t lead to livable neighbourhoods filled with healthy people.

“After they opened Insite, it was like a warm hug from God … I mean people used to die here from overdose almost every day,” one Downtown Eastside drug user told the authors of a 2012 study.  

Safe injection sites are designed to do away with the most nightmarish aspects of injection drug use: Addicts sharing needles, using puddle water for injections, getting robbed after a fix and dying of overdoses. A frequently cited 2011 paper in The Lancet that studied Insite’s success found a 35 per cent decrease in the fatal overdose rate in the several blocks immediately surrounding the facility. And a 2009 review by Simon Fraser University criminologist Martin A. Andresen estimated that Insite saves three lives per year

But this is only one part of Vancouver’s drug story.

For one, the drugs consumed at Insite are “pre-obtained,” which is to say that they are still purchased by users on the black market. With about 700 injections occurring on site per day, it follows that there is still a vibrant market for drug suppliers — the very ones now cutting their product with lethal doses of fentanyl.

Insite’s own website says that “supervised injection facilities can help people quit drugs” — but the data proving as much is slim. The two major studies that Insite references cover a limited time period, and only document an increase in admissions to detoxification. To date, there is no definitive, long-term data showing that Vancouver’s injection drug users are successfully getting clean and kicking drugs because of safe injection.

Meanwhile, a 2006 British Medical Journal study looked at the years before and after Insite’s opening and found “no substantial decrease in the rate of stopping injected drug use.” While Insite will provide referrals to drug treatment, they also aim to be “low barrier.” Site staff do not want to alienate patients by counselling or pressuring them to seek treatment.

  • Spatchcocked

    The Mayor of Vancouver is a thoroughly sociopathic man.

    But there you go….I blame the voters and the political nomenclature and the city unions.

    • I don’t understand how turning part of a city into a crack den is a workable solution.

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        I have two alternate solutions to that problem.
        One is lots of hot shots.
        Two is harnessing the creative power of addicts to acquire their next fix by putting them in prison camps and making them work to earn the value of that next fix.
        Yeah, yeah, can of worms, human rights and all that shit.
        Fuck off.
        Heroin destroyed people in my family.
        They would have been better off in custody before they did the real damage.
        You know that bumper sticker: I’m spending my kids inheritance?
        In my family you’d have to add ‘On heroin’.

        • Oh, dear …

          That people destroy themselves is one thing. That is a tragedy. That we must subsidise, make ourselves complicit in this adds to the evil.

          • terrence22

            The downtown East-side in Vancouver is BIG business for all the do-gooder, money-grubbing social workers who “work” there.


            “In 2013, $360 million was spent by 260 agencies and housing sites to help roughly 6,500 people. Most are poor; many have addictions or mental health challenges.

            Three-quarters of that money comes from taxpayers, as the agencies received funding from the provincial ($231 million), municipal ($15 million) and federal ($17 million) governments.

          • They are vultures.

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            People don’t destroy just themselves.
            They leave big gaping holes where the future was supposed to be.

          • Indeed.

        • Shebel

          I once rented my back garage to a guy that once had a pretty big business.
          Oh yeah. He was a nice person—-his employees -not so much.
          He paid his first 3 months rent on time,every time.
          Then it got slower.. I knew winter was coming up and this ass hole was making no money.

          His employees got tougher looking and they NEVER worked.

          Finally— for the sake of my sanity—I grabbed a hand gun and went to visit them.

          They laughed at me.
          4 shots later—they didn’t laugh any more.

          Took 2 days and many threats to my life but they are

          ALL fucking gone.

          And this is when -I got rid of my hand guns—
          It was too fucking close.

    • terrence22

      but, but, BUT, mayor moonbeam ENDED homelessness in 2015!

  • Shebel

    Safe injection sites is just a prelude to selling Narcotics.
    Why don’t you just SELL them the drugs instead of bleeding the taxpayer ?
    Make a profit and send the money to Justin.

    I really don’t give a fuck if they OD— but then again—
    I don’t intend to SAVE another fetus now.

  • Bla Bla

    Success can be easily defined if you are a socialist and use your ‘feelings’. Same with math!