Is there a case against safe supply? Lately, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has faced criticisms for his opposition to safe supply sites, also known as “safe injection sites” or “overdose prevention sites.”
These are facilities where people use substances under the supervision of trained staff. These facilities aim to reduce the harm associated with drug use by providing a safe and hygienic environment and access to clean needles and other supplies, counselling, and medical care in case of overdose.
With broad “public health” support, critics cast Poilievre’s opposition as an ideological bulwark against the evidence-based compassion of left-wing progressives.
But are safe supply sites evidence-based? What about the experts, like Dr. Julian Somers or Dr. Vincent Lam, who disagree with the established narrative?
Or is the idea taboo? That there may be some unintended consequences of flooding our communities with accessible opioids?
How can a policy be evidence-based if we treat all opposition as misinformation not worth considering?
Safe Supply Reduces Addiction?
In the movie Vancouver is Dying, filmmaker Aaron Gunn documents how addicts will use legal means to acquire methadone and then sell it on the street for fentanyl. Doctors have confirmed they’ve heard the same from some of their patients.
It’s a narrative no one wants to hear, but it’s true: some people like fentanyl.
True, some people take another drug someone else has laced with fentanyl, and that’s a problem with prohibition. But in other cases, people actively seek out the high associated with fentanyl.
Why? Because people like drugs. This seemingly banal fact has been obscured by “addiction experts” and other busybody public health officials who claim people become slaves to their habits and cannot make rational choices.
This ideology is labelled “evidence-based,” but what evidence do we have that addiction is a disease of the brain or a medical condition requiring a lifetime of recovery? Brain scans don’t reveal the inner thoughts of people.
It is perfectly valid to view addiction as a person’s choice to cope with underlying emotional or psychological problems. People who struggle with addiction can regain control of their lives by understanding the reasons behind their behaviour.
They can make a conscious decision to change their drug habits. Even eliminate them.
We’ve become a society that chastises personal responsibility and accountability as symptoms of “white privilege” and “structural racism.” So there’s little surprise that we haven’t solved our addiction issues.
Public health approaches addiction under the false assumption that it’s a disease. This leads to policies like safe supply sites, which, as Dr. Kelly Anthony put it, “consigns the addict to be a slave forever.”
Who Criticizes Safe Supply?
Dr. Kelly Anthony is one of the few doctors in Canada willing to criticize “safe supply.” She says other doctors and academics are unwilling to publicly criticize safe supply due to political pressures, shaming, shunning, and silencing done to critics.
Look no further than the Ontario College of Psychologists going after Jordan Peterson for his dissent for a clear example of the witch-hunt that occurs when you step off the plantation. (Regardless of what you think of Peterson, a professional has the right to criticize the prevailing unscientific narratives of their profession, especially on social media.)
The B.C. government is targeting Dr. Julian Somers for his opposition to safe supply. Somers has maintained a database that links information about B.C.’s vulnerable populations to days spent in hospitals, detention centres, and their medications or income assistance.
Overall, this database has helped researchers accurately measure the impacts of government policies. Researchers have used it in over 30 provincial reports, 60 peer-reviewed publications and several graduate theses.
Somers recently used the data to research the government’s anti-poverty programs.
The conclusion? B.C.’s current approach to homelessness is ineffective. It is better to prioritize rehabilitation, employment, and social reintegration. A “safe supply” of free drugs fosters dependency.
B.C. Government Wants Safe Supply Dissidents Silenced
“Portugal has 64 therapeutic communities and zero consumption sites. British Columbia has zero therapeutic communities and 40-something consumption sites,” Dr. Somers told the National Post.
In February 2021, Dr. Somers presented his findings to the B.C. government. Did the government follow an “evidence-based” public health initiative?
Of course, not. The government told Somers to destroy the database from which he got this information. Of course, Somers has refused to comply.
So the government has locked Dr. Somers out of future research with them. He’s been the subject of harassment from safe supply advocates. Conferences that disagree with his opinions on safe supply have disinvited him.
The British Columbia Centre on Substance Use calls Somer’s research “low quality.”
This Doctor Gets It
Dr. Vincent Lam is a physician concerned that we’re replacing fentanyl addicts with hydromorphone addicts.
He wrote in the Globe and Mail, “If you are a proponent of “safe supply,” the ineffectiveness of prescribed hydromorphone in replacing street fentanyl supports the argument of making pharmaceutical grade heroin available instead, with more open access to this higher potency molecule.”
Dr. Lam doesn’t seem to be captured by the magic thinking of public health. He realizes that addicts are chasing a high. By giving them access to drugs with lower euphoria, “the notion of “safe supply” looks more like an infinite escalator than a destination. As dose and potency escalate, risk and harm escalates, and yet “safe supply” is sold as harm reduction,” he wrote.
“On the ground, the irony is that current “safe supply” does not meet the opioid requirements of those who are at highest risk – but it is these high-risk users whose lives it is meant to save.”
This Doctor Also Gets It
Another doctor, Dr. Paxton Bach, who works in Vancouver‘s Downtown East Side, is on the fence.
He says, “Safe supply is the most immediate tool that I have available to try and stop somebody from dying tomorrow. But I worry that a discussion on safe supply in isolation, without talking about the systematic drivers of substance use, is incomplete. I’m less worried about de novo opioid-use disorder tomorrow with some diverted hydromorphone tablets, but I do wonder where this ends up taking us over the next 10 years without addressing these bigger questions.”
So what are these bigger questions?
Dr. Lam recognizes that addiction often results from something else, whether it’s trauma, mental illness, poverty, or physical injury and pain.
“These are at once so diffusely powerful and inadequately addressed, that those of us who wield prescription pads are easily seduced by the promise of a solution by prescription, just as opioids promise solace in the smooth form of a nice, safe pill,” he writes.
Dr. Lam recalls Oxycodone, in which its manufacturer, Purdue, made unfounded claims of safety and non-addictiveness. They promised Oxy was a pain-killing solution; instead, it became a critical step in today’s opioid crisis.
The Case Against Safe Supply?
Dr. Nick Mathew, a psychiatrist in Vancouver, wrote: “The benefits of the B.C. safe supply model are entirely unproven and theoretical. The downsides of increasing the amount of opioids in the population have a known harm.”
And indeed, it doesn’t take a doctor or “addictions expert” to see the problems with it. Safe supply sites:
Encourage drug use: Some critics argue that safe supply sites enable and condone drug use rather than promoting abstinence and discouraging drug use.
Divert resources from other programs: Critics argue that governments could better apply taxpayer resources to other programs, such as addiction treatment or housing support. This is Poilievre’s argument.
Legal issues: There are legal concerns about safe supply sites, especially in Canada, and it is a matter of ongoing debate.
Impact on public order: Some critics argue that safe supply sites have increased crime and disorder in the surrounding area. Whether we can solely attribute Vancouver’s tent cities to safe supply remains to be seen. But the injection sites have been influential.
Ethical concerns: Some critics argue that providing a safe place to use drugs may be morally or ethically problematic and that safe supply sites may condone drug use.
Lack of evidence: Critics argue that the effectiveness of safe supply sites is still unclear and not supported by enough scientific evidence.
Simon Fraser University issued a report that looked at 15 years of research. They concluded there were no documented benefits of safe supply sites.
Disagree? Then read the report and criticize how they came to their conclusions. Don’t do what the Toronto Star did and call it “critically low-quality” without giving any real reason as to why.
“Experts” responded that they were “disappointed” to see “this offensive and flawed report come from researchers working at a Canadian university, and request that [the government] give no serious consideration to it when deliberating safe supply policy.”
But according to Dr. Somers, one of the report’s authors, “We summarize and reference the abundant evidence that chronic consumption of opioids and stimulants causes harm to humans. This is not controversial.”
Not Seeing for the Forest for the Trees
The debate between public health busybodies and concerned physicians fails to capture the core of this issue. The B.C. Coroners Service has consistently reported that the toxicity of illegal drugs is causing drug deaths.
It has nothing to do with addiction or dependency. It is a problem of prohibition and regulation. The solution to our opioid crisis is to legalize all drugs, especially heroin.
The issue isn’t drugs. It’s people who misuse drugs. Just like the gun issue isn’t about the guns per se, but the people who misuse them.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre may misdiagnose the opioid crisis and the homelessness problem. But his critics are no better. They are often worse.
The issues related to safe supply, drug addictions, homelessness, and mental health all stem from the same origin. Corporate profiteering sanctioned by the government under the guise of “public health” or “regulation” or whatever soundbite they’re deceiving you with this week.
It’s what created the opioid crisis we have today. And it’s sowing the seeds of the next drug-related crisis. It’s the reason behind our skyrocketing costs of living and all the unnecessary wars of the last 80 years.
It’s the origin behind our corrupt politicians, lying media, and pill-pushing doctors. In most circles, this type of corporate and government power merger is called fascism.
Perhaps you have a grandfather or great-grandfather who risked his life fighting against that system and for the freedom of private property and voluntary trade.
Are their deaths in vain? Or is this the decade we finally do something about it?