The recent op-ed by Jeremy Devine is a reminder of how much work still needs to be done within the medical community to advance the principles of public health and understandings of patient-centered care. BC is not “giving up on its addicts”; it is taking steps to address the immediate harms of drug use for individuals who may not be ready, able, or willing to access treatment. This approach respects the rights of people who use drugs to seek the treatment that will work best for them when they are ready, and enables individuals most affected by the opioid crisis to be included in policy decision process that impact them.
Calling addiction an “individual pathology” ignores the complex interplay of structural, social, and physical environments that shape drug-related health outcomes. Devine’s recommendation that all funds be re-routed towards “a blitz” of Anchor Recovery programs demonstrates just how little research he has undertaken to understand the relative effectiveness of harm reduction and abstinence-based treatment models on a population level, and reveals a probable lack of experience working with communities most affected by the opioid crisis. There is no magic bullet to the opioid crisis; while Anchor Recovery-type programs may work for some, they certainly won’t work for many, and there is no reason these programs can’t exist alongside harm reduction and other treatment approaches.
People who use drugs are not just those who live on the streets or in prison — they are also our friends, neighbours, and family members. Their valuable knowledge about programs and policies that affect them should serve as a reminder to step out from the Ivory Tower.
A doctoral candidate in Sociology and the Collaborative Addiction Studies at the University of Toronto, Jenna was on the CSSDP board of directors from November 2013, acted as Conference Chair for CSSDP's 2015 conference, was CSSDP representative on the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition steering committee, and volunteers with NORML Canada. Find out more.
Stephanie is a doctoral student in population and public health at the University of British Columbia, where she is currently undertaking research to better understand the links between cannabis, opioids, and drug-related morbidity.