Socialized Medicine and Harm Reduction for the Rest of Us
One of the dangers of socialized medicine is that population health and minimizing public health care costs always trump what’s best for individual patients.
As part of its harm reduction program the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is now handing out crack pipe kits to drug addicts in Vancouver. This is in addition to funding and operating a supervised injection facility for drug addicts. Insite costs around $3 million a year and provides drug addicts with clean needles and other supplies for injecting their drugs all under the guise of a harm reduction program aimed at – you guessed it – improving population health and minimizing public health care costs.
Supporters of Insite claim it reduces the number of deaths by drug overdose and the transmission of certain diseases. That may sound good for population health statistics, but what about the individual health of these drug addicts? Prolonged drug use impacts the brain and body and can lead to various chronic conditions, heart disease, strokes and organ failure. I wonder what family members and former employers of these individuals have to say about the impacts of prolonged drug use on quality of life?
How did such a place come to be? In 2003 the facility received an exemption from Canada’s federal drug law, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for the purpose of scientific research. Drug addicts serving as research subjects explains the avid support Insite receives from the academic and research community.
Supporters of Insite say that we must take care of the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. A line often used to try and guilt us into embracing ideas like this one that serves to transfer all personal responsibility for using drugs from the drug addicts themselves on to the rest of us. If the family members or friends of a drug addict were providing them with needles for injecting drugs or pipes for smoking crack wouldn’t they be called enablers?
Since drug addicts face no legal consequences for their drug use at Insite and no financial consequences for the services provided to them at this facility they really have no incentive to stop using drugs. How can a drug addict get clean without quitting drugs? How many drug addicts have been cured of their drug addiction through Insite?
Last September a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada mandated Insite’s continued exemption from the federal drug law. However, the original exemption only allows for injecting drugs not inhaling them so Insite’s new inhalation room for crack addicts will have to stay empty for now.
What’s next? Will the government start providing the drugs to drug addicts as part of its harm reduction model? It’s already happening under the banner of scientific research. Enrollment for the latest study started on December 19, 2011.
A few weeks ago the public health director in Montreal and the provincial minister of health put out the call for new safe injection sites in Quebec as a harm reduction measure aimed at improving population health and minimizing public health care costs.
Another danger of socialized medicine is that it makes all of us more vulnerable. I’d like to recommend a harm reduction measure for the law-abiding, taxpaying citizens footing the bills for safe injection sites and crack pipe kits – just say NO!