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International News

Canada: Adding Up Damage Done by Drugs; but Is Ottawa Ready for Safe Injection Site

February 13, 2009

Ottawa residents on Thursday debated the merits and concerns associated with offering IV drug users (IDUs) a supervised injection site much like the Insite facility in Vancouver. The half-day open forum attracted about 120 participants and was organized by the Ottawa Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

There would be clear benefits to having supervised injection, argued Dr. Lynne Leonard, a University of Ottawa epidemiologist who has studied Ottawa IDUs for about 15 years. Such a site would help reduce fatal overdoses; improve access to health care and addiction treatment; cut blood-borne infections; and curtail open-air drug use, Leonard said.

In 2005, a research team surveyed 250 IDUs in the city, among whom Aboriginals made up a disproportionate 13 percent. The IDUs had been shooting drugs an average of 16 years. A follow-up 2007 survey found that of 405 IDUs, 10 percent had HIV; 61 percent had hepatitis C; 43 percent had overdosed at least once (the average was four times); and sharing and re-using needles was relatively common. Many also reported liver trouble, abscesses, depression, and pulmonary problems.

Of those with a severe psychiatric disorder, an estimated 40-60 percent will develop a substance abuse problem in their lifetime, according to a presentation from the Canadian Mental Health Association. It can take three to five years to rehabilitate a person facing addiction and mental illness, with housing often being a major barrier, a CMHA speaker said.

Ottawa Police Inspector Alain Bernard visited Insite in Vancouver and spoke with officials from the police department there about their experiences. The force had to deploy an extra 32 officers just to cope with nuisance and disorder complaints related to Insite, Bernard said. "It's a case of good intentions with unintended consequences," he added.

Back to other news for February 2009

Adapted from:
Ottawa Citizen
02.13.2009; Kelly Egan

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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