A victory for harm reduction in Canada

North America s only safe-injection site for drug addicts will be allowed to continue its services, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday. The Court ruled unanimously that shutting down Vancouver s Insite clinic would threaten the health and lives of drug users, thus violating their human rights.

This was a landmark legal decision in favor of the methods of harm reduction to address the health complications associated with illegal drug use without demanding abstinence from the addictive substance. The Canadian government, in a misguided tough on crime stance, had argued that keeping Insite open undermined its efforts to eliminate drug use yet they failed to acknowledge that the site has cut overdose deaths by 35 percent in that area, provoking strong support from law enforcement officials. As recovered heroin addict Dean Wilson, a member of the board of the users group, observed, This has nothing to do with the law-and-order platform. This has to do with gold-standard medical intervention for a group of very, very ill people.

ACSH applauds the Court s ruling in support of harm reduction. This is an example of harm reduction working well, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. As opposed to the unrealistic prohibitionist stance, this method acknowledges that we can actually reduce, to some extent, the harm associated with substance abuse in this instance, even though we can t eliminate the addiction itself.