Harm reduction can have a dramatic effect on lifespan

Vancouver’s Downtown EastSide (DTES) area has long been a place of death, largely from AIDS and drug overdoses, but in recent years, the Insite facility (which allows for a safe, controlled environment for drug use has been making a difference. One of the differences is that people are living longer.

This should be no surprise. The studies in Switzerland of programs where the government supplied heroin to addicts found a huge increase in lifespan.

Life-expectancy jump astounds

At the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1996, life expectancy in the DTES was more than nine years lower than the B.C. average.

By 2006, DTES life expectancy rose to just 5.3 years below the provincial average.

Now, unpublished Vancouver Coastal Health research from 2011 shows DTES life expectancy has jumped to 79.5 years, about two years below the average.

It’s rare to see such a shift in a population’s life expectancy, said medical health officer Dr. John Carsley.

He and his colleagues are trying to judge how much of the change can be attributed to gentrification and how much is due to improved health treatment, nutrition, housing and education.

“I think we all agree that it is some healthier people moving to the DTES, and there has been a substantial decrease in overdose deaths and HIV deaths,” Carsley said Thursday.

Carsley said he believes the new data supports arguments that harm-reduction services offered in Vancouver’s controversial supervised injection site – which was allowed to stay open with a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that said it has “been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact” – will be extended to other locations.

The more you bring drug use out of the shadows, with education, clean needles, controlled doses, increased safety, and access to other services, the more you save lives.

Prohibition, on the other hand, merely drives people into the shadows, and is a leading cause of drug death.

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41 Responses to Harm reduction can have a dramatic effect on lifespan

  1. Peter says:

    This is just the kind of program so hated and feared by the Global Commission on Drug Policy . Prohibitionists are not interested in harm reduction, quite the contrary, they have a vested interest in “harm increase,” including more deaths and disease because then they can say “look! drugs are bad.” This is so blatant that it amazes me that they are not getting called out on their deliberate harm increase policies at every turn. Wake UP media!

    • Peter says:

      sorry, I think that should have read UN Office on Drugs and Crime, not Global Commission on Drug Policy.

    • Maria says:

      ‘Harm increase’ or ‘harm expansion’ are the terms to use when writing or talking about policies that blatantly allow or enable more harm to come to individuals, society, and communities. Words are important now that ‘the war on drugs’ is over. Ha. Ha.

      Call them out. The Harm Expansion policies of the DEA, the UN, the war on drugs. etc etc.

    • Windy says:

      “Wake UP media!”

      So mote it be!

  2. divadab says:

    And the Canadian Conservative government has been trying to shut the safe injection site down since they were elected. Why? It’s a challenge to their prohibitionist policy of punishment and denial. To keep a successful harm reduction institution open creates cognitive dissonance between their beliefs and actual reality and we all know conservatives prefer to deny reality than change their beliefs.

  3. kaptinemo says:

    I hate to say this, but the main problem has been that reformers do not fully understand the mindset of the authoritarians who oppose rational drug policy.

    I am NOT speaking of the ‘professional prohibitionist’. Such are well aware of the impossibility of their cause; indeed, they count upon it being impossible.

    It’s the equivalent of the Augean Stables…and they’re playing the role of an equally mythological ‘welfare queen’ version of Hercules, lazily taking a shovel of filth here, a shovel of filth, there, and then sitting on their arses and demanding more money for more ‘work’.

    No, they’re cynically gaming the system for all it’s worth. I’m talking about the True Believers.

    It’s not a failure to properly communicate on the part of reformers to make their points to such people. It’s not like there’s some magic keyword or phrase that can be used to cause the veritable mental Wall of Jericho that surrounds the prohib minds to shatter, and for them to ‘see the light’. No, that’s not it at all.

    It’s simply this: They want people they don’t like to die.

    They really do.

    Social Darwinism has always been a component of drug law formulation. The drug addict was almost always seen by the lawmakers of then and some today as being subhuman, a monster knowingly spreading ‘disease’, a ‘vampire’ who must not be helped but be destroyed.

    Given that mindset,it becomes clear who the real monsters are.

    • claygooding says:


    • Jose says:

      “It’s simply this: They want people they don’t like to die.” – I second that AMEN Clay!

      To a prohib those results are probably seen as an epic failure. I also dare to infer that crime is significantly lower and even the non-using community is reaping benefits!

    • Maria says:

      Thank you for reminding us that this battle is just as much a matter of mindset, numbers, and language as it is laws, facts, and science.

      The mindset that the “other” is less human and deserves to die or suffer is frighteningly common.

      This mindset seems to often overlap with the one that thinks all humans deserve suffering as punishment for the sin of being born. Pain, suffering, agony, torture, acquiescence, prostration are all good for the soul.

      These experiences build character and bring one closer to some higher purpose or god or whatever. etc etc But it’s not enough for them to live this way, they want everyone to live this way. They desire to save you. Even if it’s by way of threat of violence or force. They will show you their light. Doesn’t matter that you prefer not to be exposed to the radiation, thank you very much.

      It’s here you find people who, with a straight face, refuse to provide medicine or solace to the terminally ill or sick. Or treatment and help for those who’ve committed no crimes except for an act of material consumption. This is where you find people who will calmly watch you die or be locked up due to their own policies and say “hey pal, don’t look at me, it’s for your own good.”

      With a frightening stone cold sincerity they will tell you that these consequences are what you brought on yourself. Ripping you out of your life and destroying it because you offend their morals and feelings is good for everyone involved – it’s like a fucking teachable moment!

      They will tell you to your face what they believe and do these things out of joy, love, faith, empathy. There’s rarely any logic there and the language needed to communicate with them is the only one they know how to speak but the words you’re used to using don’t quite mean the same thing in their world. Blind faith is a mother.

      (Yep. Catholic school was awesome.)

      • Windy says:

        Great rant! I always use this on those religious moralists:
        “However, let none of you become as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer OR AS A BUSYBODY IN OTHER PEOPLE’S AFFAIRS.” 1Peter 4:15

    • Just label the bad guys as life devoid of value. Worked once.

      Same concept?

      • kaptinemo says:

        When you consider that the US was at the time engaged in both the beginning stages of the near-century long DrugWar, and a half-baked official adoption of the principles of eugenics in various States such as my home one of VA, under which illicit drug users were considered to be hopelessly incurable and dangerous ‘degenerates’ to boot, and therefore in need of either sterilization or execution, yes, that’s just what happened.

        An entire subsection of society…officially deemed not worthy of life. In the good ol’ US of A. A practice the Nazis adopted into their laws. Which is why during Nuremberg they really couldn’t understand why we were so worked up about the death camps; they only took our madness to the only ‘logical’ conclusion.

        The Nazis had been systematically ‘euthenizing’ (pretty euphemism for murdering) their own mental patients, emptying their sanitariums of those they deemed to be ‘lives not worth living’, for years, long before open warfare began. They applied the basics of American eugenics and took it to abominable heights. But always remember, they got the idea from our early treatment of not just mental patients but addicts as equally deserving of the same treatment.

        That same mindset, though hidden behind words conveying false ‘concern’ for those they seek to ‘liquidate’, is and always has been behind the motivations of many DrugWarriors. (Recall Darryl Gates and his statement that casual cannabis users should be summarily executed.) After all, if it’s a ‘war’, you have to have an enemy, and an enemy that’s easy to dehumanize because they’re seen as being ‘threats’ to ‘normal’ people make excellent targets…as we know all to well to our sorrow.

        • kaptinemo says:

          And, in an addendum, why do you think so many encounters with police end in death for their paymasters?

          What kind of mindset (other than simple cowardice) would lead to such a high incidence of what amounts to those summary executions I mentioned?

          Perhaps because a great many police believe (but often cannot articulate) that non-violent drug users unlucky enough to fall into their clutches are, a priori, deserving of what the police do to them.

          After all, at the beginning of drug prohibition, a ‘druggie’ was considered subhuman scum of the earth, and deserving of commensurate treatment.

          That seminal mindset has continued to today, in the drug prohibition leadership, despite a supposed maturation of opinion on the part of the general public. Which has led to countless, needless police-derived tragedies on our roads and streets. If you think a lot of cops don’t wish the fictional universe of Judge Dredd would become a reality, and act like it, you’d be mistaken. Many of them already have tried to make Reality imitate Art, with deadly results.

  4. josh dean says:

    This is just another piece of propaganda set forth by the legalization movement. Who spend mass amounts of illegal funds to dismantle progress,and promote lies to the american public. Keeping drugs illegal has saved the lives that matter. People who used drugs even once are a lost cauuse and deserve nothing but death.
    I know what you’re up to and it’s only a matter of time. Before the world sees you for who you really are,junkies who just wanna get high without getting the punishment you deserve. Junkies and weedies,cause crime in this nation. They steal,mob,kill and rape for their fix.

    Thank you for your time
    and remember drugusers are not human but evil brainless killers.

    • stlgonzo says:

      Ha, this was good. Great job Josh, just did a spit take with my coffee.

    • kaptinemo says:

      Assuming this is not satire:

      Thank you for verifying my above missive. It’s not every day we get such a swift response…seeing as your average bottom-feeder prohib isn’t all that ‘swift’ to begin with. Much obliged! 🙂

    • darkcycle says:

      Trolls! Where’s my troll-stick?

    • Jose says:

      Ugh, this sounds a lot like government and their beloved Wall Street to me… “They steal,mob,kill and rape for their fix.” To be frank, they have done more harm on a lager scale than any single drug user could even imagine, much less accomplish.

    • Peter says:

      “Thank you for your time and remember drugusers are not human but evil brainless killers.”

      I think Josh just punked us.

      • kaptinemo says:

        That’s why I added my caveat. 🙂

        • Duncan20903 says:


          Pfui. Sarcasm and parody fail as a means of communication when the object is prohibitionist propaganda. Human imagination simply hasn’t the capacity to be more ridiculous or farfetched than the actual reality of the prohibitionist.

          Truth or parody?

          Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Jamaican “men are always drunk,” have no interest in higher education, and people freely smoke marijuana.

          “The men want to sing and do not go to colleges, some are dreadlocked. Let us not go there,” Mugabe told the crowd at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.
          Over the years, Mugabe has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about dreadlocked Rastafarians, whom he once described as having “moths and mud” in their hair.

          Case closed!

  5. Jose says:

    I am not sure how they can say “astounded”. Surprised that when you treat someone like a human, with compassion, maybe some empathy sprinkled on top that a person lives longer? They’re surprised that when someone is marginalized, criminalized and treated like vermin they don’t live as long? C’mon on docs…. People like us have been screaming this for years yet the article reads to “me” as if they think they’ve discovered something new! I am glad to see that at least they are considering expanding it. At least until Cameron gets wind of it.

  6. UpTheSpout says:

    Heroin is safe, but we should still continue to save our nation’s children from the deadly disease of marijuana!

    I’m against legalizing marijuana, and not just to save our very precious children, but also because marijuana addiction is a terrible disease. A panel of US health experts, headed by “abort every black baby” Bill Bennet, has declared as such, as have many credible-looking websites such as the ONDCP’s.

    I live in a city that is at the center of the deadly marijuana trade, yet I have never used the disgusting stuff. Diseases posses some inherent form of agency: They can infect our children.

    Classifying hard marijuana addiction as a disease does at least acknowledge the horrors that it unleashes on our defenseless children. Unlike the far less-harmful and rightfully legal-substances, alcohol and tobacco, marijuana totally destroys the pitiful lives of most of it’s disgusting abusers.

    For our tiny defenseless and innocent children, we have to stop this deadly scourge!

    • darkcycle says:

      Wazzamatta, Malc, eat a bad clam?

      • Byddaf yn egluro: says:

        It’s far worse than that: Powdery Mildew 🙁

        • darkcycle says:

          Spray right away with skim milk, try not to get the milk into your soil medium. Wait two days then spray with neem oil. The Milk swings the pH of the leaf surface up and kills the mildew, the neem coats and smothers the spores before they can germinate. Go now. Don’t wait.

        • divadab says:

          Regalia! OMRI-certified organic, knotweed derivative from some plant science geniuses at UC Davis. It’s a systemic inoculant which is highly effective against powdery mildew. spray a little on the roots when you transplant and on the leaves.

          And it comes with instructions for aerial application! ;>}

        • darkcycle says:

          My favorite is Axiom or Messenger Harpin Protein, but Malc is in the Netherlands…wanted to be sure whatever I recommended was readily available.

        • Byddaf yn egluro: says:

          Thanks both for the sound advice. I’ve been using garlic for the last three days and it seems to have knocked it out completely.

    • kaptinemo says:

      Ow! Owwww! Okay, I get it, I get it! Quit pulling my leg, willya? Jeez! LOL!

  7. Servetus says:

    For decades it’s been assumed that drug addicts possessed free will in matters associated with their addictions. As science marches on, it appears the craving of addiction is at least in part due to biochemical changes in the body, specifically chemical switches on the genome that eventually get flipped by using the drug in question. What may have started out as free will doesn’t end up that way.

    Where free will is assumed, there is punishment; in this case death or imprisonment for addicts. Where free will is absent, such as when cancer is induced by ingesting a randomly acquired carcinogenic chemical, there is no formal punishment, unless the victim is uninsured; no punishment for the cancer victim, nor the manufacturer and/or seller of the carcinogenic substance.

    For a nation to allow or even promote the deaths of drug addicted people in this manner is a crime against humanity. It marks the distinction between a civilized and a barbaric society. Punishment, persecution and neglect is not necessary in these matters, and it’s not going to accomplish anything beyond ruining lives.

  8. claygooding says:

    And if they aren’t trying to lock you up for moral reasons they want you locked up because you are rebelling from the authority they accept as being supreme,,,until the very same authority takes away a right they do believe in.

  9. claygooding says:

    New Documentary Lambasts Drug War, And Obama’s Failure To Stop It


    Two years after he was elected president in 1969, Richard Nixon first used the phrase “war on drugs,” in a tough speech on drug policy.

    Four decades and more than 40 million drug-related crimes later, the war on drugs is still simmering.

    And now, just months before the presidential election, a new documentary “The House I Live In” explores the ways in which that war could be rethought. “snipped”

    Just in time for the debates.

    • Jose says:

      That trailer contained the best drug war analogy I have ever heard in one sentence. “The drug war is the holocaust… in slow motion”.

  10. josh dean says:

    I was not trying to be funny. Drug users are nasty and horrible people. They irk me,amost as a group of young ghetto ass niggers,who think its okay to walk around with their underwear showing. Makes me sick as hell. I didn’t become a youth consulor to see young negros act in such a manor selling white kids drugs in school.the problems getting worse.so its time we fight back harder. It makes sense to make more strick rules. Its the only way to combat theses thugs and their discusting drugs

  11. CJ says:

    insite is wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AH!!! but you know something – the SCARIEST thing I could think for folks is to think that it is ENOUGH because it is NOT ENOUGH no where NEAR ENOUGH and i reckon that if they didnt mess up the H.A.T they were doing the number would maybe be equal to the rest of Canada if not maybe even better – but what do i know im just a junkie with a limp right arm from using dirty needles that were so over used that it was more like sticking a knife in my arm, more like a butter knife more like a medieval dagger ah more like the SPEAR OF DESTINY – THE SYRINGE OF DESTINY BY GOD! yes its true.

    but listen here now, if you search the web youll find interviews not only with the people of the heroin maintenance in vancouver, where they explain what the program was, how it helped them and what stupid catastrophe happened after, BUT you will see, the easiest bit to find, a roundtable discussion – AH! DONOT BE AFRAID! IT *DOES* LOOK LIKE AN AA MEETING THAT VIDEO BUT IT ‘TIS NOT! GO HITHER, IT IS SAFE DEAR FRIENDS. NEED NOT COVER YE EYES AND EARS OF THE HEATHEN TREACHERY FOR TIS NAY THERE

    but in that video is several of the folks who were lucky to do the heroin maintenance and then several counil folks but most important Vancouvers own wheel chair bound mayor who through his own handicap was able to realize the horrors of prohibition – the judgment and prejudice placed upon others – i.e junkies. BUT BUT BUT he DOES have the dangerous conception of the lot of us being “handicap” as he is – allusions no doubt to the dangerous Company of Jesus circa 1559 in Bungo province (home of daimyo Sorin Otomo) Japan LEVEL OF PROPAGANDA SPEWED BY AA about the “disease of addiction” nay there is none. NAY. There is however the SOLDIERS disease which is the truth of the matter and the cure given to the SOLDIERS is no different than H.A.T and IT IS THE ONLY THING THAT WORKS – TRULY WORKS.

    PLEASE DONT MISUNDERSTAND ME! If Junkies could laugh and cry, well this probably aids and definitely hep C positive junkie right here would have cried tears of joy at the victory of that vancouver supreme court, like the native in this junkie who, nevertheless is first junkie than native, wishes he could cry and laugh in reflection of the battle of bull run… wouldnt it be nice if the natives were junkies and custard was idk, Kirlikowske or Kevin Sabet? ah maybe there will be a third opium war yet and maybe that battle will be fought, if so i hope the prohibition induced diseases killing me dont take me before i may take the scalp of a prohibitionist.

    look in that video someone in Canada speaks about bupe – SUBOXONE – if you will, the idea being Canada doesnt have the access we do and believe me we have an over abundance and that is the only reason, as ive said before an will say again, the truth is junkies dont want suboxone or methadone and GOD NO we dont want nalaxone (UNLESS were talking O.D.) however if you say to a junkie we’ll give you something, it wont do what you want BUT it will make sure you dont go through the Sickness. HOWEVER the price you pay isnt just financial if you take this drug the other price you pay is your heroins and painkillers will be blocked, the sub will block it and the methadone will flood your receiptors so it wont be able to fit in – it being your D.O.C. Well the junkie will always pick the bottle of suboxones so the junkie can suck one of them down on a day they are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they will NOT get the money and their CONNECTS CANNOT SPOT or COME THRU. Thats it. They will always pick subs because subs can and will and do sit in the closet until that horrible kind of day happens again. Methadone you have to pick up everyday, methadone you usually get in a clinic, your usually drug tested, your usually not able to have AS SUCCESSFUL a Junkie existence on the ‘done versus the bupe. To that Canadian: DUDE YOUR WRONG DONT EVEN GO THERE. I like how in the video the true junkies in the house dont acknowledge him or subs.

    but the danger is insite is really nothing great in the grand scope of things – is it baby steps? i dont know because i think sometimes things like this, these things that seem like small victories for us reformers may indeed be ways of stagnating our goals by the prohibitionists who are giving us nothing more than a crumb when they are well aware that we want and will inevitably get the entire proverbial cookie but perhaps we are such skinny, starved, stinky, homeless junkies (indeed,) we cannot see beyond that and take our crumbs when we get them and devour them and love them instead of spitting them at their face and saying “HAND OVER THE COOKIE JAR!!” as the prohibitionist says “WHO ME?!” and we declare “YES YOU!!!!!” and they maintain, “COULDN’T BE!!!” then picking up our crumbs we apologetically ask, “THEN WHO?!!!”

    insite is just like this – rows of desks, think a telemarketing office, one of those shady commission only types that usually are tied to injury/accident attorneys fishing clients (calling the same people 20x a day) so you have a little desk, a big mirror and some cubicle type short walling that seperates booth from booth. before you lay cotton, medical boot, syringe etc. there is NO HEROIN provided there is nothing provided there in that vain. they have nurses who can assist though youd be better to ask your neighbor junkie to boot n bang you before you ask them cause theyll do you better BY FAR. and amidst all of this there is PLENTY PLENTY PLENTY of drug war prohibitionist propaganda hanging on the walls, taped or pasted behind the front desk. the staff are sort of cool but totally not one of us, no matter if one of them claim they used to be (those are the worst) and like the Jesuits I mentioned earlier, they will spare no expense to arrange converts to the cult of submission, of sobriety. There are the typical losers employed at this place, i.e the 6 months then go fight for your country in the drug war drug counselors… indeed, us junkies who so often are the product of childhood rape from parents, family, priests, friends, trusted lots, the victims of horrific physical abuse, horrific circumstances that would qualify, -IF YOUR INTO THIS SORT OF THING- the use of a TRUE shrink… meaning the shrink that has gone to school proper for 10 years not the guy who was like me but became a tool and wuss for prohibition and, having spent everything on drugs for years now borrows money from his sponsor to go through the course at the local community college to become a drug counselor – then pay back this wonderful, AA nutjob sponsor whose of course now “addicted” to materialism and pretention and as such asks for that loan back with interest – good ole capitalism and American interest.

    yeah, drug counseling should be outlawed. its down right wrong.

    the thing is, you know, maybe you could say “hey man Vancouver has freakin insite – what the hell do we have?” well we have stuff. And beyond that, aside from the point in my who stole the cookies from the cookie jar or who stole the baggies from the workbox bit, (who me? couldnt be! then who?) ill just mention that not very far from insite there is currently the HYDROMORPHONE MAINTENANCE PROJECT going on, the dillaudid for maintenance project that is also VERY QUIETLY also giving its patience heroin. The fact is, even without this going on they did and they will always point out to you that they were the *FIRST* in North America to do heroin maintenance. And again they are doing it and again it obtains success like only it can. So because of this i point out flaws and get upset, because its not bumblebeefart Alabama IT IS a place that KNOWS BETTER and HAS DONE BETTER.

    So i guess its just as well i mean the bottom line is i prescribe to the theory of the cookie jar. Its crumbs we accept with glee but shouldnt and should toss aside and demand more. We shouldnt be surprised at the fantastic results of an in-site but we know and should demand better. junkie to junkie. forever like a candle in the wind baby. (one that sits wonderfully underneath a beaten stainless steel spoon with a twingle of blackish brown on its underbelly as wonderous juicies snap crackle and pop for the heat, as soon cotton to liquid, liquid to needle, filling the belly, mixing two colors, pinching myself for good luck before fading away!!!!!!!! and in this case, it is better to fade away than burn out, Neil Young, Kurt Cobain and the Kurgan from Highlander 1 fame!)

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