Addiction in Canada

Addiction and the war on drugs has long been a problem in countries all over the world, regardless of status: third world, developed, developing, etc. But aside from the fact that the term ‘addiction’ is general and vague, what can we, as society, do to help those who are ‘addicted’ and how do we combat that?

Google defines “addicted” as ‘physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.’ Firstly, anyone can practically be addicted to anything. An avid basketball player can be addicted to playing basketball to the extent where his knees or ankles can be hurting, thus creating an ‘adverse effect.’ An obese man can be addicted to cheeseburgers thus leading to the adverse effect of being morbidly obese. A businesswoman can be addicted to caffeine simply because she relies on 3 cups of black coffee a day to function. So why is it that an addiction to food, sports, television or coffee is okay but another arbitrary substance defined by the government is not?

Let’s disregard the definition of addiction and deal with how we HANDLE addiction. Well, addiction is simply a dependence on something that causes negative effects. So how can we deal with these adverse effects whilst helping the individual wean off that substance?

It’s clear that mass incarceration doesn’t work since drug users (or ‘abusers’) have not shown a significant decline in Canada since Health Canada conducted a study in 2004. [1] Health Canada surveyed Canadians on cannabis, cocaine/crack, heroin, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, and ecstasy in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The study illustrates that since the war on drugs, there has not been a significant drop in drug users. In fact, the number of drug users has basically stayed the same!

Furthermore, according to the Government of Canada website, 11 per cent of Canadians reported using 1 out of the 6 elicit drugs (cannabis, cocaine or crack, speed, ecstasy, hallucinogens or heroin) in 2012 within that year. The same study was conducted in 2013 and once again, 11 per cent of Canadians (or 2.9 million Canadians) reported using 1 out of the 6 elicit drugs. [2]

So what does work?

Montreal has begun implementing safe injection sites where drug users can visit the site to use their drugs in a safe manner. In 2016, Montreal has pledged to invest 12 million dollars to fund these open injection sites. [3]

Open injection sites or supervised injection sites are areas where drug addicts can go to ‘shoot up’ in a safe manner. They are guaranteed clean needles and a place free from judgement and prosecution. They are given doses that are safe thus preventing overdoses, and they can be sure that they are truly getting what they ask for (ie. fentanyl instead of heroin [4])

If in the unfortunate event that an overdose does occur, staff and other medical personnel are present in order to prevent deaths.

Moreover, in countries such as Portugal where all drugs have been legalized (ala libertarianism) for at least 14 years and open injection sites are implemented, there has been a SIGNIFICANT decrease in drug users of all drugs. [5] Moreover, the amount of cases involving HIV and AIDS has severely declined due to open injection sites offering clean needles and users not having to share needles.

14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here's What Portugal Looks Like

Now I am not condoning the legalization of ALL drugs (although it has shown to be effective in some countries) but I am an advocate of open injection sites. Instead of shunning those who need our help and throwing them into jail cells, we should provide them with the necessary tools to get through their addiction. Quitting anything cold turkey is hard enough (whether it be smoking, drinking, or even eating healthier foods) and it becomes that much more difficult when society chooses to simply abandon you.

[1] http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/stat/_2011/summary-sommaire-eng.php

[2] https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2013-summary.html

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-to-invest-12m-in-safe-injection-sites-1.3783424

[4] http://www.cpha.ca/en/about/digest/40-2/5.aspx

[5] https://mic.com/articles/110344/14-years-after-portugal-decriminalized-all-drugs-here-s-what-s-happening#.9iCFWIDHg

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