It’s time to look at instituting a needle exchange for illicit drug users in Cowichan rather than just the needle giveaway that is the status quo.
There is plenty of evidence that providing clean needles for drug users is an effective way to prevent the spread of such blood-borne diseases as Hepatitis C and HIV. This is not only desirable to help save people’s lives, it is also cost-effective, as it saves the health care system big bucks by not having to treat people for these illnesses.
There’s also plenty of evidence that providing clean needles doesn’t encourage people to inject drugs, or inject more often.
Nobody addicted to drugs is healthy, but this at least keeps them from getting even more sick.
So the availability of clean needles is important and desirable.
But our community has a huge and growing problem with discarded needles. People are finding them in our parks and thrown onto their private property. And it’s not just one or two. There have been literally thousands, we would guess, collected from places in Duncan alone over the last year.
This is also a health hazard, and one that has the potential to seriously harm residents. It is important to take their safety and continued good health into account, too.
So we think authorities should look at trying for a better balance. If addicts had to return used needles to get new ones they would have an incentive not to leave they lying around in a playground for a child to stick themselves with, or the side of the dike for a firefighter to puncture themselves on.
Even if most of the drug users brought back most their needles most of the time we would see a huge improvement.
Perhaps this is the way to have the best of both worlds, harm reduction and a solution to the severity of the needle problem.