(PBSpot) The first-ever crack pipe vending machines have recently been installed in the high-crime Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver. The goal is to stop, or at least reduce, the spread of disease among drug users.
Two of the machines were funded by Portland Hotel Society’s Drug Users Resource Centre. Kailin See, the director for the DURC, said that ”For us, this was about increasing access to safer inhalation supplies in the Downtown Eastside.”
The vending machines will provide unused Pyrex crack pipes for just 25 cents.
See said that the pipes are extremely durable and unlikely to chip and cut drug users’ mouths. This, as it turns out, is a major cause of diseases being spread amongst users, including HIV and hepatitis C.
The machines were introduced by InSite, the only medically supervised safe injection site in all of North America.
The Canadian federal government tried to shut InSite down in 2008, but a Supreme Court ruling upheld the facility’s exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney disagrees with InSites’ approach, saying that treatment for drug use must begin by “limiting access to drug paraphernalia” by youth.
“Drug use damages the health of individuals and the safety of our communities,” Blaney continued. “We believe law enforcement should enforce the law.”
Still, health-care professionals say that InSite, and facilities and initiatives like them, save lives and reduce deaths.
See explained her group’s perspective, saying, “This is one piece of the larger puzzle. You have to have treatment, you have to have detox, you have to have safe spaces to use your drug of choice, and you have to have safe and clean supplies.”
See points out that every new case of HIV or hepatitis can result in taxpayer expenses up to $250,000. Compare that with the cost of the vending machine pipes at 25 cents.