Sunday October 02, 2016

Should hard drugs be decriminalized?

Health Canada has amended regulations allowing doctors to prescribe heroin to people who are severely addicted to opioids.

Health Canada has amended regulations allowing doctors to prescribe heroin to people who are severely addicted to opioids. (Getty Images/age fotostock RM)

Listen to Full Episode 1:53:00

A Vancouver clinic has been giving out free heroin to addicts for years. They say harm-reduction techniques are more effective than law enforcement in getting addicts off drugs. Should hard drugs such as heroin be decriminalized?

In a small clinic in downtown Vancouver, a patient walks up to the dispensary counter to get her prescription filled. She ties a rubber band tightly around her arm, jabs a syringe into a vein, and injects the drug treatment she's received. That drug is heroin.

Heroin is often perceived as a killer a drug that conjures up images of desperation and uncontrollable addiction; a downward spiral of crimes, catastrophes and early death.

But the Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver has been giving out free heroin to addicts for several years; it's the only treatment centre in North America where addicts get actual heroin. They say harm-reduction techniques are more effective than law enforcement in getting addicts off drugs, reducing crime, and saving money for the health care system.

Critics argue free heroin only coddles and enables drug addicts and prolongs addiction rather than ending it.

But more and more Canadian cities aim to offer harm reduction services for drug addicts. Vancouver has long had a supervised injection site. Kamloops B.C. recently opened one. Other cities, such as Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Hamilton to name a few, are looking at doing the same. 

Harm reduction can mean anything from a safe place to shoot up to free supplies of needles, and heroin. What do you think about this trend?  

 Our question today: "Should hard drugs such as heroin be decriminalized?"

Guests

Lisa James, a client of the Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver, where she receives free heroin with her treatment

Donna May, a mother who lost her daughter to drugs and now advocates for legalization
Twitter: @donnamay    

Dr. Gabor Maté, doctor and author of "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction" 

Adrienne Rosen, Director and Co-Founder at Access Education Guatemala Children's Fund.
Twitter: @adriennerosen 

Richard Elliot, Executive director of the Canadian HIV AIDS Legal Network who advocates for legal regulation

Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at the New York University, Marron Institute of Urban Management where he leads the Crime and Justice program. Author of "Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know."  
Twitter: @MarkARKleiman  

Live chat:

Links & Articles

CBC.ca

Globe and Mail

National Post

Macleans

Government of Canada

Toronto Star

The Atlantic

New Yorker