Monday, 30 March 2009

Prescription Heroin Clinics - There Goes The Neighbourhood?

There are some major opponents of Sydney’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) including a few well known opinion writers. Fortunately for the public, the critics can never produce actual evidence that supports their claims of a negative impact on the surrounding area. Some of the claims include an increase in disregarded needles, drug dealers and devious behaviour and even falling local real estate values.

A group of anti-MSIC nuts were so convinced that they took a bin of disposed needles from a veterinary surgery and dumped the contents outside the MSIC. They then informed the media that it was the result of junkies that lurk around the MSIC. Luckily someone pointed out the difference between brands sold for animals and brands sold for humans.

The insatiable quest by some to keep drug treatment centres out of their suburbs is astonishing. It’s known as NIMBY(Not In My Back Yard). One can only imagine the outcry if these drug treatment centres also supplied prescription heroin as well.

Likewise in the US. Often when the establishment of a methadone clinic is proposed, there follows a mass of protests, outrage and claims that some precious suburb will be overrun with dangerous junkies. Imagine the uproar that if instead of a methadone clinic, an outlet for providing injectable heroin was proposed? The paradox of not allowing a methadone clinic is that those dangerous junkies that the community fear so much, are left without treatment which is why drug related crime occurs. A clinic would reduce this crime but for many, the fear of seeing addicts seeking treatment is more terrifying than the unseen junkie burglarising their house.

This type of thinking would make it impossible for a heroin assisted treatment (HAT) clinic to appear anywhere in America except maybe near Area 51 in the Nevada desert. As usual though, a little research dispels all those nasty preconceived ideas that helps fuel the "War on Drugs" as a war on people.

Medical Prescription Of Heroin Does Not Pose Neighbourhood Risk
Science Centric
February 2009

Providing heroin to drug addicts at medically supervised clinics does not pose risks to surrounding neighbourhoods, according to a new study by Serge Brochu, a researcher at the Universite de Montreal School of Criminology. Brochu found that the Montreal leg of the NAOMI project, otherwise know as the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, didn't have a negative impact on its surrounding neighbourhood.

Launched in 2005, the NAOMI project did not foster increased criminal acts, dangerous debris, deviant behaviour or emergency interventions in its downtown community. A comparable study of the Naomi project's sister clinic in Vancouver, led by Neil Boyd of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, also found the impact of that heroin clinic to be negligible. The NAOMI-CI (Community Impact) studies were launched simultaneously in Montreal and Vancouver to measure the community impact of the experimental NAOMI project.

As part of his study, Brochu and his team interviewed close to 40 residents, business owners, police officers, security guards, social workers, kindergarten employees and homeless people between May 2005 and June 2008. Police data (criminal and uncivil acts) was obtained from the Service de police de la Ville de Montreal for the period from 2002 to 2008. What's more, Brochu and his team undertook 150 observational walks in the streets, alleyways, parks and parking lots within a 200-metre radius of the NAOMI clinic in to assess the levels of debris, deviant behaviour and observable emergency interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.
Data collected during the neighbourhood walks revealed that the quantity of drug injecting debris (syringes, needle covers, stericups, spoons, etc.) decreased significantly. What's more, the NAOMI clinic had no impact on the quantity of various street debris (drug containers, condoms, alcohol bottles, etc.), on deviant behaviour (loitering, solicitation, public consumption of alcohol or drugs, squeegees, or rummaging through garbage) or on observable police and ambulance interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.

The NAOMI project was established after research showed that the injection of pharmaceutical heroin is more efficient than simple methadone treatments to help some drug addicts that do not respond to traditional treatment. In Montreal, the study was led by Dr Suzanne Brissette, head of the drug addiction rehabilitation program of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal and a professor at the Universite de Montreal's Faculty of Medicine.

Results from the last 12 months have been very positive. NAOMI patients undergoing treatment throughout the program increased 88 percent and participants reduced their consumption of illicit drugs by 70 percent, reduced their criminal activity by 36 percent and improved their health by 20 percent.

'Steps have been taken with the Quebec Ministry of Health so this type of program can be offered to heroin addicts that don't respond to traditional treatments,' says Dr Bissette. 'These new results obtained by Professor Brochu are keeping us hopeful.'

'Studies conducted on the NAOMI project as well as my own study on the criminal impact of the project highlight its validity: the health of drug addicts is improved with no negative impact on the urban area. That said, why not continue helping these marginalised people combat their dependency problem, or at the very least, help them improve their physical health?' says Professor Brochu.


marginalutility said...
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Terry Wright said...

Thanks Caty.

I had a look at your sites, watched a few movies and read some articles. You're a busy girl!

Groups like NORML and Students for A Sensible Drug Policy are always in the public spotlight and need to focus and what's realistic and most achievable. For them it's baby steps. There are plenty of pro legalisation groups that may be more suitable to your cause.

Thanks for taking an interest in my site and if I can help with your cause, let me know.