INSITE: The Problem or the Solution?

INSITE is North America’s first supervised drug injection site. The government approved and sponsored facility opened its doors in 2003 in the run-down, drug-infested nieghborhood of eastern Vancouver, Canada. On average, INSITE operates at capacity of 600 visits per day by drug users who come to safely shoot-up. INSITE provides drug users of heroin, cocaine, morphine, and other illegal substances with clean needles, a safe environment, on-site medical professionals, counseling, housing assistance, addiction services and mental health treatment. The facility does not provide any drugs and medical professionals do not do any injections. The extremely controversial facility has prevented 221 overdoses and has had no deaths to date.

 The harm reduction program was started to combat the growing HIV/AIDS rates in the community which were similar to developing countries rates. Harm reduction is a “philosophy of addiction treatment through enablement.” Critiques of the harm reduction philosophy and INSITE argue that government approval gives users the “green light” on using illegal and dangerous drugs. Does it perpetuate the very serious problem of illicit drug use? Does it contribute to the rising number of drug users? Are future generations going to be more accepting of these dangerous drugs?


There have been several attempts to shut the facility down the past 10 years, but the Canadian Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the supervised injection site in 2010. INSITE advocates Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Thomas Kerr state the scientific evidence trumps ideology over the public health benefits of INSITE. “Fewer people are injecting drugs; more are accessing addiction treatment; and HIV transmission related to injection drug use has plummeted.” More than half of INSITE’s users are homeless, living in shelters, or have untreated mental issues. These users are marginalized by their community and typically do not have strong support systems. Research has shown that isolating these addicts does not make them stop using drugs. Facilities like INSITE, bring these addicts back into their community while curbing society’s rising healthcare costs and the dangers these illicit drugs present. So, is INSITE a problem or the solution?

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9 thoughts on “INSITE: The Problem or the Solution?”

  1. I think this topic is fascinating. You said that this is the first institute like in in North America, are there others like it globally? Are they more established? Do they work? I do feel that a major downside to drug rehabilitation is the clean, clinical aspect of it. There could be upsides to this approach, but I don’t see it ever being permitted within America.


  2. I think organizations like INSITE are very beneficial to society. The fact that they have prevented 221 overdoses, eliminated the risk of HIV/AIDS from IV drug use and have had no deaths to date is truly amazing. In the end, the “war on drugs” will never end and people will continue to use IV drugs. I don’t see INSITE as an issue of ethics so much and I don’t think it creates a “green light effects. I think it would be great if this could come to the United States since if these people are going to use drugs it is better for all of us if they are supervised while they do it.


  3. I think this is an interesting initiative to produce better relations with illegal drug users and save lives. On the other hand, how can a government support a program like INSITE while maintaining strict drug enforcement nationwide. It seems to treat people differently and all citizens have the right to be treated equally under the law.


  4. In my opinion, I find what INSITE does very helpful. Addictions are very powerful things and are difficult to stop; alone most people could never stop. INSITE provides a helping hand to these addicts to give them options they would otherwise not have. If a place like INSITE didn’t exist, addicts would still shoot up but just use dangerous methods. INSITE is saving lives, preventing diseases from spreading, and giving addicts the option to change their lives. Personally, I find INSITE hard to disagree with.


  5. I think INSITE is a very innovative way of dealing with drug addicts and communities that have drug problems. By providing a safe environment for drug addicts, it takes them off the street and minimizes drug use to these facilities. Although it has been successful in lessening the harm done by these drugs, I wonder whether it has affected the number of drug users?


  6. I mean, i wanted to say es in the poll. I just want to know more about the methodology of harm reduction. Also, we need to replicate this to see more evidence.

    i do think some science and health-based approaches to substance abuse are in dire need instead of our recycled moralism (it is wrong to do it and if you do, you have a character flaw).

    That is how we treated left-handedness, depression, women’s sexuality, and homosexuality 20,40,80 years ago. I have a feeling this will change to.


  7. We have chatted some, but it is pretty clearly a good case to use consequentialism.

    And, in terms of policy, I think looking at how harm reduction or other forms of “not criminalizing” substance use is an angle. You could focus more on treatment and interventions as well. Just to say I think you policy angles are pretty straightforward. There are many, so it will be finding the one you want to do.


  8. Also, FYI, there is some book author or journalist doing hte NPR rounds about the problems with many treatment programs that put too much emphasis on getting clean (especially for heroin, I think) when such an approach can lead to an INCREASE in overdose deaths because they will relapse (some of them) and when they do, their tolerance is lowered so the OD.

    This is the Jason Cherkis’ series, “Dying to be Free.” .There are clips of him doing interviews too.


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