Monday, July 26, 2010

Crack is #1 in BC: What are We doing About It?

Having met more than my fair share of crack users and addicts in my frontline work, I've come to learn this is just the most brutal drug to get off of and stay off. It just messes people up and keeps them coming back for more and more and more.

I've known a couple who have been long poly-drug users, main drug of choice is crack and one thing that has helped them and the entire community immensely has been that they've been able to maintain housing for years. They've taught me a lot. They volunteer in the community, they're both dealing with the health impacts of a life of high-risk behaviour (HIV, Hep). They've got housing, so they can live a more stable life, albeit one still addicted. They care about each other, about their family and their community.

I wish we could figure out a way to create the kind of low-barrier (ie. hard to house) housing that is the first step for containing the harm done by people who are cycling through crack and poly-drug addiction. Help people access health care, mental health/psychiatric care. The solutions are available. They won't work for every single person, people quite literally fry their brains for good after a while of doing dope for so long. It's smart and good public policy for us to take care of people. It decreases the damage done too.

One story that comes to mind to look at the harm that can result from the devastation of crack addiction is the story of the Brotherson family:

Former Victoria-area Councillor Not Guilty of Murder

Steven Kelliher, who represented the Brotherstons, told the court that Taylor had tried to extort $100,000 from Ken Brotherston and his sons, who were both crack addicts.

He said several of the key witnesses who were in the house at the time of Taylor's death were also crack addicts, as was Taylor himself.

Kelliher said the Brotherstons were simply defending themselves from a houseful of delusional and paranoid drug addicts who had been bingeing for days.

The Brotherston Trial - Drugs, Death on the West Shore

Inside the trial of a former Highlands councillor and his two sons, found not guilty of murder

Louise Dickson, February 1, 2010, Times Colonist.

Crown prosecutor Carmen Rogers painted Brotherston Sr. as a man desperate to protect his sons, a father dragged against his will into their crack world, forced to clean up their messes, pay off their drug debts, take them to hospital, pay for rehab.

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Crack Use Biggest Street Drug Street Problem in BC

VANCOUVER – Crack use is the No. 1 street drug problem in many communities in B.C. but the issue does not get as much attention as it deserves.

And as crack use rises in Canada, so does the urgent need for targeted prevention and treatment programs—especially in smaller communities. That’s the conclusion of a new study led by Simon Fraser University health sciences researcher Benedikt Fischer.

In a paper to be published in Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy next month, Fischer’s team documents a recent investigation of the social, health and drug-use characteristics of 148 primary crack users in three mid-sized B.C. communities: Nanaimo, Campbell River and Prince George.

Past studies have focused on larger urban settings and confirm that crack users are more likely than other drug users to face significant health problems such as HIV, Hepatitis C virus (HCV), sexually transmitted diseases, and mental illness. They also feature a distinct social profile characterized by extreme poverty, homelessness and illegal income generation.

Fischer’s study focused on crack users in non-urban communities to determine their unique characteristics and how best to target and deliver prevention and treatment programs in rural settings.

Among the study’s key findings:

· In addition to their drug habits, participants were compromised by unstable housing, illegal incomes and frequent encounters with the criminal justice system—a combination putting them at a “crucially elevated risk” of health problems
· Participants displayed a “high prevalence” of concurrent physical and mental health problems
· Crack use tended to occur in conjunction with the use of a variety of other legal and illegal “psychoactive substances,” including alcohol, cocaine and opioids
· Participants exhibited HIV and HCV rates similar to rates observed in primary injection-drug users; alarmingly, many users with HCV did not know they were infected
· Subjects assembled their crack-use paraphernalia mostly from high-risk materials such as scrap metal, metal piping or broken glass, leading to oral burns, cuts and other mouth injuries conducive to infectious disease transmission
· Most participants “saw any attempt to quit crack as a futile effort” given the current acute lack of viable treatment options

Citing the “high prevalence of crack use” across Canada, the study calls for “the comprehensive improvement of preventive and treatment intervention services,” specifically:

· Improved resources and training for health workers to address the complex and intertwined health challenges faced by crack users
· Improved accessibility to infectious-disease testing in the study locations
· “Crack kit” distribution programs that include information on prevention and health care
· Safer inhalation facilities for crack users, akin to those found in Europe
· More research into and expansion of treatment options

Says Fischer: “In many B.C. communities, crack use is the number one street drug problem, yet we give it much lower attention than other forms of drug use.

“We need better and more targeted prevention and treatment for crack use in order to reduce its enormous negative public health impact.”

The study was supported by funds from the B.C. Ministry of Healthy Living and Sports, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

- SFU.

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Drug Crack-down Needed in Small-town BC

Shannon Smart, July 23, 2010. The Hook.

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