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Canada’s Vancouver Eastside, where drug dealing, prostitution, and homelessness reign supreme, is known as Vancouver’s “square mile of vice.” This area also houses the city’s sole residential black community, and 70 percent of its residents are aboriginal.  According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the dumping ground for the city’s problems has now become part of a controversial program aimed at providing free crack pipes to its drug-addicted population in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and Hepatitis B.

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The Vancouver Coastal Health Harm Reduction program, which is running for eight months as a trial, has five centers that distribute thousands of kits that include heat-resistant/shatterproof glass pipes, filters, alcohol, swabs, mouthpieces, screens and push sticks — everything a crack addict needs to make his crack-smoking habit sanitary. The majority of users are males between the ages of 20 to 60.

The organizers of the $60k program felt that since the city’s heroin users already receive sanitary needles from the needle exchange program or the city’s supervised injection site, they should try to create a safer inhalation program for those who are addicted to crack.  Program health officials hope that the distribution of the kits will afford them the opportunity to also sway users toward considering detox services. Vancouver’s Coastal Health Authority spokesperson Trudi Beutel says:

What this boils down to is it’s about disease prevention.  It’s about preventing more communicable diseases, which land these people in hospitals on a frequent basis and clogs up emergency rooms.

Obviously, everyone doesn’t agree with Vancouver’s drug program. Director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada David Brener told the National Post:

Programs like this ignore the problems of addiction. All this does is aid and abet. What we should do is put that same amount of money into treatment and prevention, because treatment and prevention work.

In America, the crack epidemic, which hit poor urban areas in the mid-’80s, was devastating to the African-American community, with the rise of black male homicides, fetal death rates, low birth weight in babies and extraordinarily high incarcerations becoming rampant. While the Obama Administration has committed more than $10 billion for drug-education programs, expanding access to drug treatment for addicts, the never-ending battle against drugs continues.

As to whether Vancouver’s crack-distribution program is a partial solution to the ongoing worldwide drug problem remains to be seen. Do you think this program should be tried in the United States?

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