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Vancouver drug control strategy calls for free crack pipes

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, August 1, 2011 11:18 EDT
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The city of Vancouver is set to launch a novel approach to drug control by giving away free crack pipes in hopes of better connecting drug addicts with health workers, according to the Canadian Press.

People addicted to crack-cocaine typically smoke it out of glass tubes, which can sometimes be hard to come by. The program aims at reducing the risk of HIV and hepatitis among crack users, which tends to be elevated thanks to shared pipes.

The city’s health authority already offers free mouthpieces, but they’re seen as less effective at harm reduction because they’re difficult to remove.

The program closely mirrors a needle exchange program the city has set up. Drug reform advocates there are also pushing for a safe injection zone that would give heroin addicts a place they can go to dose themselves, where health workers are on site to provide clean medical supplies and respond to overdoses.

A safe inhalation zone, where crack addicts could come for similar services, was also being considered.

Vancouver’s steps are largely in-line with recommendations from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a panel of former high ranking world officials who’ve called for the drug war to be significantly altered to focus on treating addiction as a medical problem.

Members of the commission include the former presidents of Switzerland, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, along with a former U.N. Secretary General, a former U.S. Secretary of State, the prime minister of Greece and the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others.

The commission’s report, issued last month, cites figures showing that today’s drug policies have resulted in an increase in crime and use, with opiate and cocaine consumption up 34.5 percent and 27 percent from 1998-2008, respectively.

Image credit: Flickr commons.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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