New study shows federal war on drugs failing in Vancouver

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      A new report on Vancouver’s drug problem highlights the success of harm-reduction strategies and related approaches while suggesting tougher policing has not been effective.

      The report, released today (June 24) by the Urban Health Initiative at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, is based on illicit drug-use data collected over a 15-year period.

      “The objective of this report is to make data accessible to a wide variety of stakeholders and to directly inform the City of Vancouver’s Four Pillars Drug Strategy, the Province of British Columbia’s response to illicit drug use, and the Canadian federal government’s National Anti-Drug Strategy,” the report says.

      Among its findings, the study shows that while overall drug use remained steady from 1996 to 2011, injection drug use decreased over that period.

      The report also shows the percentage of drug users accessing methadone therapy rose to more than 50 percent over that period; fewer drug users reported difficulty getting addiction treatment; and reports of syringe borrowing decreased to 1.7 percent in 2011 from 40 percent in 1996.

      Meanwhile, the report shows that while many drug users said they had been jailed, an emphasis on police enforcement has had little impact on the price or availability of illicit drugs.

      “Between 2000 and 2011, drug prices remained low and stable, with heroin prices at $20 per 0.1 gram and cocaine, crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine at $10 per 0.1 gram. The availability of these so-called ‘hard drugs’ is comparable to, and in some cases even greater than, the reported availability of marijuana,” the report says.

      In a news release, report co-author Thomas Kerr credits addiction treatment and harm-reduction services for helping more people to stop using injection drugs.

      “It’s important policymakers at all levels of government take note of this evidence and focus efforts on approaches proven to be more effective,” Kerr says in the release. “Continuing to invest in failed policies like the war on drugs does little to reduce health and social harms.”



      I thought...

      Jun 24, 2013 at 4:14pm

      ... the US had a War on Drugs and Canada had a National Anti-Drug strategy, and that these represent very different approaches. Reading the report, I still believe this to be accurate but somewhat surprisingly (perhaps), Canada's stated approach is not being adhered to by Harper's government.

      A more important quote to pull from that report is:

      In 2007, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that his government was introducing a National Anti-Drug Strategy aimed at reducing the supply and use of illicit drugs. Though a balanced drug prevention and drug treatment approach was promised to the public, a focus on funding and enhancing law enforcement efforts was instead observed. And despite international acceptance of harm reduction strategies as evidence-based approaches to reducing health-related harms among PWUD (people who use illicit drugs), the National anti-Drug Strategy failed to invest resources in harm reduction programs, and harm reduction was removed from the strategy for the first time since a federal drug strategy was announced in 1987. The federal Conservative government has remained resistant to harm reduction programs such as Insite, Vancouver’s first sanctioned supervised injection site.

      ... unacceptable.

      Michele Baillie

      Jun 24, 2013 at 4:19pm

      Sounds good. These are medical-service statistics though. This whole article and what I hear on various radio stations about this topic are oriented the same way.

      Not ONE word is said about the property crimes of epidemic proportions the drug users ARE engaging in to PAY FOR THEIR DRUGS.

      When your car/ apartment gets broken into or your bike gets stolen (or your store gets shoplifted from) you can pat yourself on the back because you are doing your part to support street people being able to buy their drugs that they go to Insite to shoot up with.

      Everybody knows that drug users are responsible for MOST of the property crime. Don't take my word on it. Research it for yourself.

      Peter Eller

      Jun 24, 2013 at 4:48pm

      the federal war on drugs has been very successful! because its goal is not to curb drug use but rather to get votes for conservatives


      Jun 24, 2013 at 4:53pm

      @Michele Baillie,

      Exactly, we should being down whatever helps to get people to stop using drugs (and needing to steal to fund their addiction). Evidence has shown that law enforcement is largely ineffective and too expensive. Hard-reduction strategies are much more effective (especially relative to the cost). So the best way to to lower the impact of drug user crime on society is to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal issue. Just remember to vote for whichever party will change the current disastrous policy next election.

      Martin Dunphy

      Jun 24, 2013 at 5:07pm


      This is the second time you have posted about your poor car being broken into by a person or persons unknown.
      We know that being the victim of a property crime can be a traumatic experience, and that you can feel that you have been violated.
      We get it. But you are still traumatized years later.
      It was a pair of shoes.
      Let them go.
      Because, baby, they're gone.

      C. Friend

      Jun 24, 2013 at 10:39pm

      I could hardly afford the $300 deductible when my car was broken into, but I still do not support the government's anti-drug war which just fills the pockets of lawyers and extra police who we, as taxpayers, pay for. I would much rather see my money go into treatment programs rather than the legal and law enforcement industry, which the illegal drug trade makes very lucrative for all concerned. A good start would be to legalize marijuana. A few less bike lanes could pay for some rehab facilities as well--oh and how about some low income housing? (I know I am picturing a dream world!)

      Reverend Didilidoo

      Jun 24, 2013 at 10:41pm

      You are very bad people you should read the King James Version & you women should cover your heads with a womenly hats serve your husbands clean the house & men you should always wear black suits white dress shirts & a black tie, you must refrain from coffee only drink milk, go to bed at 8:00 PM & wake up at 4:00 AM for bible devotion before working on the farm.
      I tell you, you must avoid the wrath of God.


      Jun 25, 2013 at 12:06pm

      Michelle, ignore the rabble, especially Martin. These people can't seem to understand that supporting drug addiction is also a way of supporting crime. Of course, their answer is to let the government solve everything.

      Malcolm Kyle

      Jun 25, 2013 at 2:13pm

      A happy little bunny, bouncing through the forest, stumbles upon a giraffe rolling a joint.
      ‘Giraffe, think about what you’re doing to yourself! Come with me and bounce through the forest, you’ll feel so much better!’
      The giraffe tosses his smoke and goes off bouncing with the rabbit.
      Next they come across an elephant chopping up a line of coke.
      ‘Elephant my friend, come bouncing with us through the pretty forest, you’ll feel so good!’
      The Elephant tosses his gear and joins them.
      The three animals then come across a lion about to shoot some smack.
      ‘Lion my friend, why do you do this? Think about what you’re doing to yourself! Come bouncing with us through the sunny forest, you will feel so good!’
      The lion puts down his works, unbinds his arm, and starts to kick three shades of shit out of the rabbit.
      The giraffe and elephant watch in horror, then finally obtain the presence of mind to pull the lion off the rabbit.
      ‘Lion,’ they reprimand, ‘why did you do this? He was merely trying to help us!’
      ‘That little fucker has had me running around the forest like an idiot every time he’s been on ecstasy!’


      Jun 26, 2013 at 10:42am

      The good news is that Vic Toews, national safety nazi, is retiring from politics.