By Jessica Towriss
Dangerous, disruptive, enabling and controversial. Those four words describe safe injection sites in Canada. In response to a rising drug crisis, cities have implemented safe injection sites in order to reduce incidents of public drug use and to provide a hygienic environment in which individuals are able to consume illicit recreational drugs intravenously.
Injection sites are publicly funded facilities and last year alone they secured a $3.5 million investment from the province. Individuals who use the services are given needles and medical attention at no cost but for Ontarians who suffer from diseases like diabetes must pay more out of pocket for their medicine. Something isn’t right. One of the biggest issues for people who suffer from diabetes is being able to afford their medication. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, 57 per cent of Canadians say they do not comply with their prescribed therapy because they cannot afford the supplies they need such as syringes, glucose testing meters, test strips, and insulin pumps. It is unfair and unjust that our government can supply needles to drug addicts but won’t offer supplies to patients who suffer from an illness they have no control over.
Controversy has erupted across Canada over safe injection sites, mainly about where they are located. On Sept. 11, 2018, CBC News reported a new addictions centre will be opening in Cambridge in the middle of a school district. To be located at 562 Concession St. it will be in walking distance to St. Michael’s Catholic Elementary School, Coronation Public School, William G Davis Public School and Saint-Noël-Chabanel Elementary School. This raises a safety concern for young students being in such close proximity to an addictions centre. When addicts leave the facility they are still under the influence of drugs and anything can happen. Research conducted by the Wellness Resource Centre says symptoms of drug use can include emotional swings, sudden and unprovoked outbursts, irritability and paranoia. The concern is that children are being placed in potential danger by being in such a close juxtaposition to a centre that aids drug use.
Safe injection sites are designed to assist addicts but enable them to consume and inject illegal drugs in a supervised environment. Drug addiction is fundamentally wrong for an individual’s health and these sites act as if drug use is something that needs to be tolerated; which in turn enables an individual’s self-destruction. According to Teen Challenge Canada, 42 per cent of Ontario students said they have used an illicit substance in the last year and 60 per cent of illicit drug users in Canada are between the ages of 15 and 24. If anyone can use safe injection sites, this is telling our youth that using illegal substances is morally acceptable in our society.
The problem with struggling with a drug addiction is that most individuals don’t know how to access services like rehabilitation. The main focus during a drug crisis should be on helping individuals seek help, not aid in drug use. Safe injection sites do offer services such as rehabilitation, medical and counselling services, housing and income support while promoting drug treatment. By connecting them with health and social services it allows individuals to work toward better health and becoming a positive member of society.
Although safe injection sites do some good, the public sees them as endorsing the fact that drug use is acceptable and as a place where addicts get their needles for free. We believe that the use of these facilities should be restricted to the supports of rehabilitation for addicts and not aiding them in drug use.