No one chooses to be an addict

No one chooses to be an addict

Why isn’t this tragic state of affairs, playing out all over the province, a major election issue?

No one chooses to be an addict

Re: “Hundreds march against location of safe injection site in Duncan”

“Why is it regular citizens’ lives are less important than those in the street, many of whom are there by choice?” a citizen asked.

Friend, do you believe anyone would freely choose to become a drug addict? Or homeless?

It’s unlikely that VIHA thinks “regular citizens” are less important. They just want to prevent people from dying as much or more than they have been.

You might be surprised to find that a few of the “hard-working, honest people” you want to protect could also be illicit drug users. Drug addiction knows no bounds. Fifty-six per cent of the opioid deaths in 2020 occurred in private homes. (Privacy can be deadly.) There have been so many tragic stories of young people from ‘good homes’ dying from an experimental use of toxic drugs. And sometimes a person who has been ‘straight’ well into adulthood succumbs to stress and trauma and becomes an addict later in life. Sooner or later, an addict will be someone you know.

A 2008 court case established not only that the Insite safe-injection site in Vancouver served people with an illness, but also that it was delivering needed health care.

Regarding the idea that addicts made a choice, BC Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield stated: “The original personal decision to inject narcotics arose from a variety of circumstances, some of which commend themselves to choice, while others do not. However unfortunate, damaging, inexplicable and personal the original choice may have been, the result is an illness called addiction.”

He added that reports showed the site caused no increases in drug-related loitering, drug dealing or petty crime. It also did not increase the relapse rate among drug users (in fact, people tended to use less, and more safely).

Speaking of choice, though — it does seem that our governments choose not to provide adequate treatment for this devastating illness. And we let them.

Despite the steadily rising death toll (1,068 in B.C. this year by Aug. 31), there are still vastly inadequate facilities for detox and treatment. There are not nearly enough beds. People cannot detox or go for treatment when they want and need to go. They have to go on wait lists and try to stay clean and sober on their own, without resources, for weeks or months.

The majority of treatment beds are user-pay and extremely expensive. If they’re able, desperate parents mortgage their homes and go into debt to try to save their addict children from a fentanyl death. Homeless addicts do not have the resources, mental strength or consistency to jump through the many hoops it requires to get real help. They don’t necessarily have a phone, or an address, or a meal in their bellies. So they don’t get treatment even if they want it. And the death toll increases: nearly five overdose deaths a day in B.C. in August. The costs also increase: lives lost, neighbourhoods in trauma, paramedics and health professionals getting burnout and PTSD from dealing with so many overdoses.

Did we intend to set things up so that only the wealthy and the lucky could get clean and sober? Why isn’t this tragic state of affairs, playing out all over the province, a major election issue?

Grace Wyatt