Opinion

EDITORIAL: Lift the needle exchange ban

Drug users shouldn’t be given clean needles. It only encourages them, you see.

It’s that kind of misguided, short-sighted thinking that leads to bans on needle exchanges and other harm reduction measures in communities.

Abbotsford went down that ill-advised road in 2005. In 2010, the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) urged the city to reconsider, citing among its concerns Abbotsford’s hepatitis C infection rate, which was higher than regional, provincial and national averages. Earlier this year, Abbotsford council did the right thing and rescinded the bylaw.

Mission council is similarly reconsidering its own ban on needle exchanges. It shouldn’t be a difficult decision.

The bylaw didn’t push drug users out of town. It’s naive to believe it would. And it certainly didn’t help anyone.

In fact, drug overdose rates in Mission are two times higher than the provincial average, according to statistics from Fraser Health, which wants to increase and streamline harm reduction services.

As in Abbotsford, clean needles have been distributed to drug users in Mission despite the ban, while city authorities in both communities have looked the other way.

Someone who is in the steel grip of addiction, which has already torn away family, relationships, career, a home, self-respect, and eventually life itself, is not set on the road to recovery by the absence of clean needles.

It takes a great deal more than that to motivate someone to make the decision to become drug-free – and stay that way.

So why provide clean needles and crack pipes? It helps to prevent disease spread by shared use of the rigs. If that conjures no sense of human conscience or compassion, then focus on the fact it saves public money.

Sharing drug paraphernalia is a fast-track to a host of health problems such as infection and disease, the most common being HIV and hepatitis C.

When drug addicts become sick, they go to the same hospitals as everyone else. And we all pay for their medical care.

Yes, drug users need more than just clean needles to deal with their addictions and achieve a healthier lifestyle.

Provision of harm reduction measures is the first step in that direction for a contemporary, forward-thinking community.

With the exception of one member, Mission council is on the right track.

 

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