Saskatoon

Addictions expert Dr. Peter Butt wants to see study into safe injection site

A well-known Saskatoon doctor would like to see a feasibility study into building a safe injection site for IV drug users.

Saskatoon Tribal Council also calling for study

Dr. Peter Butt would like to see a study on a safe injection site in Saskatoon. (CBC)

A well-known Saskatoon doctor would like to see a feasibility study into building a safe injection site for IV drug users.

For years, Dr. Peter Butt has worked as an addictions consultant with the Saskatoon Health Region. He is joining the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) in asking for a study on whether a safe injection site would work in the city.

"It's time to be looking at this critically," he said." [The STC] is extremely well-placed to be a lead on this because of the very credible work they do on the street level."

Butt is primarily interested in whether a safe injection site would lower the city's HIV infection rate. Right now, Saskatchewan has the highest HIV infection rate in the country.

"It's an alarmingly high rate," said Butt. "The question is, though, would a safe injection site have an impact on the transmission, as opposed to increasing the availability of clean syringes more broadly throughout the community through street outreach vans, offering the same range of services."

Butt believes the idea might have a better chance of working under the current Liberal government. He said the Conservative government was very hesitant to work with any groups dealing in 'harm reduction'.

"Civil servants couldn't even utter the words," said Butt. "They were singularly tongueless on this particular topic. Now we have the opportunity to look at this critically."

While the safe injection site in Vancouver is credited with stopping drug overdoses, Butt said he doubts that would help the problem in Saskatchewan. Butt said many injection drug users use prescription medications like hydromorphone or dillaudid, and are much less likely to overdose than heroin users. He said a safe injection site would not stop fentanyl overdoses, because most of the time the pills are crushed and snorted, not injected.

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