Safety First: A New Approach To Addictions

Proposed safe injection site has locals up in arms, but would have its merits.

By: Pierre Corbett-Roy


Residents of Ottawa’s downtown core are well aware that drug use in the area is rampant, and this has been a source of concern for many years. On September 30, 2013, a mock injection site was opened to give residents a chance to see how such a site would operate if one were ever allowed to be opened in the city.

Currently, there is only one such site in all of Canada – the Insite Facility in Vancouver – but many groups, such as the Drug Users Advocacy League (DUAL), are applying to open similar sites in the capital. The safe injection site would provide clean needles and a safe, supervised environment for those who are addicted to heroin and other hard drugs.

Many residents are up in arms over the initiative, claiming that providing a safe area for addicts to inject would only promote and potentially increase drug use in the downtown core. Some claim that opening such a site would decrease residents’ safety, and could end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run.

I do not believe that having a safe injection site would promote or increase drug use. It seems farfetched that people who normally wouldn’t inject heroin would be inclined to do so simply because they could do it in a safe environment. Addicts will continue to buy and inject their drugs whether they can do it in a safe, clean environment or not.

It is my opinion that having a designated area could actually increase safety to the downtown residents. As a resident of Lowertown, I’ve often come across addicts in my backyard seeking refuge from the crowded streets to inject. Instead of sneaking around, users could simply head to the designated area to inject. This would definitely decrease the number of loose needles found in public places.

According to many reports, Ottawa also has one of the country’s highest HIV rates, second only to Toronto. Unfortunately, a large number of those affected are addicts. Ensuring that users are using clean needles seems like a logical way to reduce the number of people affected by this disease. Also, unsupervised injection often results in overdose. Allowing users to inject in a supervised area could theoretically decrease the number of heroin overdoses. Decreased cases of both HIV and overdoses may actually save taxpayers a few dollars. A healthy society inevitably means taxpayers are paying less money towards healthcare.

The implementation of a safe injection site will continue to cause much debate among residents and non-residents of Ottawa’s downtown core, but it must be discussed nonetheless. The city has turned a blind eye to the issue and has maintained the status quo when it comes to drug use. I’ve often heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but in this case, I believe some fixing is in order.