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Date: March 31, 2008

Victoria Needs to Study Supervised Consumption Sites

In an editorial to be published in the BC Medical Journal (www.bcmj.org) on April 1, 2008, University of Victoria addictions researcher Dr. Benedikt Fischer and BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall are calling on relevant authorities to implement a supervised consumption site trial for high-risk street drug users in Victoria.

Supervised consumption sites (SCS) were first established in Europe some 20 years ago, and now exist in about 15 countries, including Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia. Currently, Vancouver’s “Insite” (www.vch.ca/sis/) is the only legal SCS in North America.

The SCS facilities provide high-risk street drug users—such as injection drug users or oral crack users—with treatment referrals, a protected environment, clean equipment, and other support towards using their drugs more safely. This will, in part, reduce the addicts’ risk behaviours relevant for overdosing or transmitting infectious diseases such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or Hepatitis B or C.

Fischer and Kendall contend that establishing a SCS program in Victoria would benefit the health of the city’s estimated 1,500 to 2,500 street drug users, most of which are injectors. As well, a SCS program fits with the City of Victoria’s commitment to harm reduction among injection drug users by reducing the spread of blood-borne infections. About 70 per cent of drug injectors in Victoria are infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and 15 per cent are infected with HIV.

Besides public health benefits, SCS will reduce public injecting, the discarding of drug use equipment, and loitering. In addition, SCS are effective in referring users into detoxification or treatment programs.

“Victoria provides a perfect platform to implement a distinct and scientifically evaluated supervised consumption site program that is uniquely tailored to reflect the local characteristics of street drug use and associated public health needs,” says Fischer, the director of the Illicit Drugs, Public Health and Policy Unit at UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research.

“The time has come to take the necessary steps forward towards bringing a SCS program to Victoria,” says Kendall who also notes that the SCS concept already has the support of Victoria City Council and the Victoria Police Chief.

This past April, Fischer co-authored a feasibility study on supervised drug consumption options in Victoria. The report was commissioned by the city and the Vancouver Island Health Authority. It can be viewed online at http://carbc.ca/portals/0/resources/SDC_Feasibility.pdf
Media contacts:
Dr. Benedikt Fischer (Centre for Addictions Research), bfischer@uvic.ca or via his research assistant Jude Gittins at 250-853-3133. Fischer will be available by telephone from noon until 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) on March 28 and until 3 p.m. (Pacific Time) on March 31.
Dr. Perry Kendall (BC Ministry of Health) at 250-952-1887
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7656 or ppitts@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

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