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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