The feds have re-opened the question of drug rehabilitation services (there’s infrastructure that needs help!), including the very contentious safe-injection sites. A second one will open in Vancouver and at least one in Toronto. Proposals include Montreal – and Ottawa. Can Gatineau be far behind?
These sites are chosen, based on need – how great is the drug problem in any city, how many addicts are waiting for treatment? No one will propose an un-needed site. Opponents of such sites should have alternative proposals for dealing with this scourge.
While proponents are concerned mainly with the costs and effects of drug abuse on a personal level – the havoc addiction wreaks within an individual’s life – they are also concerned with addiction’s effects upon society as a whole, from families to neighbourhoods. Besides the moral argument – our obligation to help our neighbours – proponents cite cost benefits in treating addiction earlier and out in the community, rather than dealing with its much greater costs in relying upon the criminal justice system and institutional corrective facilities.
Opponents push the issue further. They ring in with high moral arguments about individual responsibility to make good life choices and to deal with life crisis in more productive ways than drugs (including alcohol). They call upon religious arguments, and, most odiously, they ramp up the fear factor by predicting a neighbourhood with addicts preying on homes and individuals, stealing for their fixes. It’s phenomenal the uses of the fear argument!
When a safe injection site is finally proposed for Ottawa – or for Gatineau – it behoves all of us to not go galloping off in all directions like Henny Penny. Forget fears of the sky falling. We must – for the benefit of those around us and for the larger community within which we all live – take an objective look at the facts presented.
Safe sites now have a history. Have they resulted in more crime, in a spread of drug-use, in lower property values, etc., etc.? We cannot make a rational decision without such facts. But if based on fears and pumped-up predictions, our decisions will be failures.
However, the argument over safe sites also obscures a much wider and deeper problem: our whole society’s own addictions. I mean, specifically, entertainment. We are addicted to being entertained. From celebrity culture to professional sports, music to movies, TV and social media, we are awash in entertainment. We’re convinced we need it.
And we use these forms of entertainment collectively in the same way the addict uses his needle, to obscure life’s difficulties. Both facilitate forgetting. Both entertainment and heroin are enemies of the present and the past.
You, you’re not addicted to being entertained? Count the hours daily spent on all these things which distract our attention. How many hours are left for life’s real issues? We’re drugged, big-time. And a safe site for a few dozen addicts seems a distraction next to this society-sized problem.