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Insite Vancouver BC: Safe Injection Sites

Updated on April 30, 2012

The Entrance To Insite

photo by stephen_dyrgas on Flickr
photo by stephen_dyrgas on Flickr

Insite Is Keeping IV Drug Use Insight

There is a dark side to the beautiful city of Vancouver BC, and despite the name of the safe injection facility being Insite, the supervised dope house is one area that some citizens wish was not in sight in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood. Located in what is sometimes called "Canada's poorest postal code," the Downtown Eastside clinic is the only North American legal "shooting gallery." The City Of Vancouver estimates that the city is home to a sub-population of at least 12,000 injection drug addicts, and Insite Vancouver BC has been giving them all a refuge free from the legal and health consequences of their addiction since 2003. Good times like the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games have come and went, but illicit drugs remain prevalent, with the highest concentration of homeless addicts living out their lives on Hastings and Cordova streets and the surrounding areas. Navigate some shady alley and avoid the police in order to cop a bag of heroin or cocaine, and then take it to Insite Vancouver BC, where once you are inside the doors, the police cannot harass you.

Local support for the Insite safe injection site seems to be quite positive, as evidenced by fundraisers and surveys. Nearly 3/4 of the Vancouver City population supports the operation of the collaboration between Vancouver Coastal Health, the Vancouver Police Department and PHS Community Services Society. This is in spite of the United States' Bush administration calling the Insite facility "state sponsored suicide." Clearly there is a wide gap in thought across the border. The proponents of the Insight building simply want to insure that addicts have a place to get clean needles in order to help lower the transmission of disease. Anything an addict needs is readily available except the drug itself. Syringes are handed out and disposed of as they would be in a hospital setting. Cookers, water, tourniquets, and filters are also all available to the addict looking for a fix. Far from being assisted suicide (although anyone would agree that the long-term effects of consistent iv drug use are deadly), the legal injection site actually has handled 1418 overdose situations since the inception. These people all lived because of the immediate medical intervention. The overdose rate has dropped throughout the area, and many who overdose on the outside are never quite so lucky. On the other hand, the "shooting gallery" can effectively become an experimental zone where addicts feel free to test their limits knowing that the medical attention will be available. That is one argument against Vancouver and it's seemingly "too nice" homeless services. Many feel that the environment that is created when Vancouver offers decent housing and safe drug use areas and supplies only creates a mindset that makes it easy to be homeless. Many succumb to their addictions and might live off of these services forever.


Homelessness In Vancouver

An excellent documentary regarding the Vancouver Downtown Eastside area and the Insite Vancouver BC location is called Streets of Plenty, and the documentary is a must-see. Misha Kleider leaves the normal life he leads for 30 days and truly begins to experience what it is like to exist on the dirty streets and in the dark alleys of Vancouver. At first, he has it seemingly easy with all of the free clothing, housing and services that the emergency shelter offers him. But, eventually he takes it to the next level and experiences crack and heroin which leads him to a deeper understanding of what much of homelessness can often be about, and how addiction plays a central role in the plight of many who have walked astray.

The Insite controversy still arises many times. Another take on the Insite harm reduction strategy from Vancouver's own street paper is here. As recent as September 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling that the facility should remain exempt from the country's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This ruling means that Insite's doors are likely to remain open for a lot longer. According to Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson that is perfectly fine. He says that you have to meet people where they are, and that might mean meeting them in the depths of their drug addictions and doing so without judgement. For now, the Insite injection facility will continue to keep at least some of the drug users in sight of medical professionals and out of the sight of residents and tourists.

Is Insite Right?

Do you agree with the work safe injection facilities are doing?

See results

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    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Amazing! I live a few hours South of Vancouver, in the USA and I didn't know a place like that existed. This was very informative and I thank you for writing it! Voted Up and Shared

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      What happened when the Netherlands decriminalized- recreational drug use went down: drug related diseases went down: prisons closed for lack of people to put in them: drug related crime way down: organized crime involvement way down etc. Should other countries follow Holland's example?

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up and more. For most places in the US, Insite would never get off the ground. (Except SF?) Two reasons:

      1) the NIMBYs;

      2) the fact that most citizens in this country would rather thump their chests and punish people, rather than doing the hard thinking that's necessary to mitigate serious problems.

    • Rain Defence profile image

      Rain Defence 5 years ago from UK

      I have to admit that I wouldn't be keen on one of these centres being on the street where I live. But it is a good idea in my opinion, the thing that some people don't understand, or maybe refuse to accept, is that people aren't suddenly going to decide to become drug addicts just because one of these centres exists. They're going to do it anyway, with or without this place. At least if they're doing it in a place like this then if they decide they want to quit the help is there for them.

    • againsttheodds profile image
      Author

      againsttheodds 5 years ago

      Thanks for all the great input so far and welcome to my new followers. Looks like Hubpages feels the same way as Vancouver so far with over 3/4 of the poll giving Insite Vancouver BC positive support. I wonder what people might think about a drug experiment done by The North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) which is an $8 million dollar project to give addicts in Vancouver and Montreal FREE heroin. A city health officer stated that heroin does not actually take years off of people's lives because it does no harm to the liver, kidneys, or brain cells except in the case of an overdose and subsequent hypoxia. Rather, he argued it is the struggle for the drug and the means taken that cause real harm. Is heroin-assisted therapy another step with safe supervised injection centers, or is that making addiction too easy?

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      I'd need more info before passing judgment on the Heroin aspect of NAOMI. Putting things into perspective, Methadone is supposed to be more addictive. And how many people are screaming about that?

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Shared and voted up 4-30-12.

    • againsttheodds profile image
      Author

      againsttheodds 5 years ago

      Thanks again Larry.

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