Anyone who is curious about the problem of addiction and how to best blunt its public-health impact should keep an eye on the supervised-injection-site movement. As reporters Pierre Saint-Arnaud and Mylene Crete explain in a Toronto Globe and Mail article published late last week, “Supervised injection sites provide a safe space for addicts and provide them with the necessary equipment — sterile syringes, gauze pads and the like — for safe injections … The users themselves bring their drugs, the sites pride themselves on being anonymous and confidential, and the users are accompanied on site by nurses and community and psycho-social workers.”
The overall goal of these sorts of facilities is to keep injection-drug users safe and to keep them in contact with a city’s public-health apparatus, and there’s some solid evidence that supervised-injection sites ameliorate the public-health toll certain types of drug use can take on a city. And now, Saint-Arnaud and Crete’s article notes, Canada’s federal government has approved the opening of two supervised-injection sites in Montreal, and it will happen within “a matter of weeks.”
This idea is part of the broader philosophy of harm reduction, which is geared at, in a sense, accepting the imperfect and frequently messed-up world we have and trying to figure out how to make things a bit healthier and safer and happier. Some segment of the population is going to be injecting drugs: Do you want them doing it in a safe, clinical setting, or in a park? Stigmatizing a problem and driving it into the darkness only exacerbates it — which is why cities like Montreal should be applauded for taking a more thoughtful approach, even if it might seem a bit counterintuitive at first.