15-year Vancouver study says harm reduction more effective than war on drugs

VANCOUVER – Health officials say Vancouver’s aggressive harm reduction strategy has reduced illegal drug use and improved public safety in the Downtown Eastside.

The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS released a 15-year study, tracking data on drug use in the impoverished Downtown Eastside.

Dr. Thomas Kerr says the study shows there are fewer people using injection drugs, with a significant drop in needle sharing and the related HIV and Hepatitis C infections.

He says the statistics show an increase in the number of users who have quit drugs and gone into treatment.

Kerr says the study also shows that the federal government’s war on drugs has failed to staunch the easy access to illicit drugs.

The Centre and the Vancouver-Area Network of Drug Users say that because of harm reduction measures like the safe-injection site and needle exchanges, Vancouver has bucked the trend of soaring HIV rates and illness happening in other Canadian cities.