Monday, November 12, 2007

UBC 2007: Safe Injection Sites

Written on November 2 but not posted to prevent sharing of research until debate:

On Wednesday, I'll be leaving around noon for the UBC (University of British Colombia in Vancouver [west coast of Canada])competition. I have three impromptu debates, and two prepared: one supporting safe-injection sites, and one opposing it. For those of you who don't realize that these exist or what they are (I had no idea!), there are certain centers in cities with a high drug use record where you can legally use otherwise illegal drugs, get sterized needles, and recieve medical help (in case you overdose) from the trained staff (although the staff is allowed to give safer injection education, they are not allowed to assist advising the injection itself). For the purpose of the debate, most government teams will probably define their plan of setting up another site somewhere in Canada, and using Insite, Vancouver's site, as the basis of their argument (although there are also 50 sites outside of Canada in countries such as Germany, Australia, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and one opening up in Portugal). I've never done a prepared debate before. Because I'm in grade 11, Danielle (my debate partner) and I have to compete in the open category, not beginner.

So I was going to organize my thoughts on here. I'll first start with the Government's points, and then clash and give those for "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition" (I love Canadian govern't titles!)

So, in support of safe injection sites:

Government position: Safe injection sites are healthier for the clients and society.

  • Safe injection sites promote health, because they provide sterylized needles. A major delemma with drug users is sharing unsterilized needles, and thereby contaminating themselves with HIV and Hep C. After Insite opened in Vancouver, the sharing needles reduced to 6% of clients per month, and HIV rates decreased 30%. Beyond health, they promote life, because trained staff are there with the training in case someone overdoses. No drug user has ever died of an overdose of heroin in a supervised injection site, despite the over 400 that have occurred. Furthermore, they have prevented an estimated 200 overdoses with medical advice.

  • Safe injection sites also promote recovery. In the centers, there is counceling and referrals for clients. One in five regular insite clients go into detox.

  • Although other citizens were originally against the idea, it has actually helped clean up the areas around the center. In drug-ridden areas of cities, syringes can be found along roadways and people are injecting themselves in public, making themselves examples to young children who may be watching. By providing a safe area, these activities are taken off the streets. This prevents an estimated 234 000 public injections per year. Areas around insite have not reported an increase in drug dealing or robbery. They actually reported a 30% reduction in Sydney [Don't ask me to explain that logic. I just get the stats]. The public in the area around the site now have an 80% approval rate. (The opposition can rebut that this is a fallacy; just because the public approves does not make it morally right).

  • It helps the healthcare system. Ambulance calls for overdoses reduced 86% after these clinics opened up. Also, if someone overdoses on the street they spend an average of 10 days in the hospital, whereas if they overdose in the clinic, they only spend 1 day. This frees up hospital beds. Currently in Canda, women giving birth are lifeflighted to Washington, Montana, etc, because there are not enough hospital beds. Over time if these beds free up continuously, the hospitals can reorganize their beds and it is more effective overall.

Now for the opposition :)

Opposition position: Safe injection sites harm the government economically and morally.

  • The healthcare provided to these clients is a free service, but costs the government money. The centers are completely funded by the province. Not only to centers such as Insite take money to build, but to staff and stock with supplies. 61% of the clients rely on social security benefit for their income. 70% are homeless, so they are obviously not using the SS payments on housing. If they live on the street, all that's left are food and drugs. Therefore, the government is already using tax dollars on those who are not contributing to the economy, and now they are spending more money to allow these people to continue habits that they selected for themselves. While it is inherent that addicts will continue their addictions, it is a choice they made. We agree the government should help it's citizens, but how do you help someone who doesn't want to help themselves? The average term of usage for clients is 13 years, although some have been using for up to 51 years [side note by Chelsea: how does someone LIVE that long on drugs???]. They started this behaviour, knowing the risks (average age of starting is 18), before these sites were created. We are not obligated to care for them because they have made the choice to contradict the original help we gave through education.

  • Also, these drugs themselves are dangerous. The long term effects may cost more for our socialized medicine in the long run because of things like cancer.

  • The government is morally conflicted. It creates laws that make these drugs illegal, and then allows for their use in certain situations. There is a reason these drugs are illegal- they are harmful. Reducing the harms does not eliminate them. Allowing centers like these is hypocracy. It is merely giving up. One of the purposes of the government is to look after the health of the citizens. This can be done more efficiently by condoning drug use, rather than cleaning up the mess it makes post-addiction. It is, in essence, assisted suicide, which, by the way, is illegal as well.

  • Furthermore, Canada is rejecting international drug laws, and treaties that it has signed by the UN. In Article Four of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, it is stated that countries will impliment laws that allow drugs only for medical and scientific purposes. By allowing certian social situations where clients can use drugs independently (it's not medical- they're not being medically reccomended drug use) and socially, it is breaking this treaty. If Canada is allowing for otherwise illegal drugs to be bought and sold, it is promoting international drug trafficing. Heroin is the largest drug used in these facilities, and 75% of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan. The Afghan farmers cannot sell their product to the government, so they sell it to the terrorists, who then make a profit by selling it. If you do not reduce the demand for the product, you cannot reduce the supply. This decision impacts not only Canada, but the international world.

  • If the clients are really going for counceling, as the proposition suggests, then they have other opportunites (1-800 numbers, walk in clinics, etc). The fact of the matter is, this still leaves 86% of the clients whose purpose is to use the injection rooms.


Anonymous said...

hey i'm doing the same debate. do you still happen to have where you got your sources from?

Chelsea said...

uh, no, our teacher gave us a packet of printed of articles. i think some were globe & mail, cnn- things like that. i am 100% sure that they are all accurate sources though, so if you don't need a source, you can use them.

if you do, our teacher tells us to make one up- in the middle of a debate, nobody can check your sources.
good luck on your debate!