Determined to halt the spread of diseases in their community, one Canadian neighborhood has adopted a controversial yet effective mitigation program: giving out free crack pipes.


According to The Daily Mail, the Vancouver Coastal Health Harm Reduction organization has created a $60,000 "harm reduction program" aimed at at lowering HIV and Hepatitis B and C infection rates in the city's downtown area.

Heat-resistant and shatterproof glass pipes have been available for free since December, along with sanitation kits that include mouthpieces, filters, alcohol swabs and metal screens. Experts say these items help reduce injury to the user's mouth, preventing the transmission of some diseases if the drugs are being shared with others.

In addition to improving the health of crack users, a 2007 study by the International Journal of Drug Policy found that a free crack pipe exchange in Ottawa actually lowered the number of people who were injecting drugs with hypodermic needles -- an important driver of HIV transmission.

Cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines are among the common street drugs administered by injection, which generally poses a greater health risk than smoking a drug.

"What this boils down to is it’s about disease prevention," Vancouver Coastal Health Authority spokeswoman Trudi Beutel said to The National Post. "It's about preventing more communicable diseases which land these people in hospital on a frequent basis and clog up emergency rooms."