Thursday, September 07, 2006

From the Globe and Mail

Drugs and 'consequences'

Vancouver -- In his column on Insite, Vancouver's safe-injection site, Gary Mason quotes approvingly a British psychiatrist who suggests that reducing the number of overdose deaths is "not our responsibility . . . it's the responsibility of the addicts themselves."

Would Mr. Mason extend the same principle to other groups, such as, say, smokers with lung cancer or emphysema, type-A business executives who work themselves into a heart attack, battered women or people injured in automobile accidents?

As a physician at a clinic that serves drug addicts in the vicinity of Insite, I know who these drug addicts are. Without exception, they are children who were severely abused physically, sexually and emotionally and who endured abandonment and neglect.

Such maltreatment has physiological effects on brain structures and brain functioning and creates an overwhelming craving for self-medication to soothe a suffering most people cannot even imagine. Most addicts began using in adolescence and have since become psychologically and physiologically dependent on their drugs.

To neglect, ostracize, and punish such people when they become adults is shortsighted and inhumane. Insite is a small but necessary step toward helping and, perhaps, rehabilitating drug users.

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