In the second installment of Good Ideas Canada Has That Would Never Fly in America, we look at the Vancouver Coastal Health program and a plan to hand out thousands of crack pipes and condoms to its burgeoning population of crackheads.
Essentially the state-run organization would like to pass out $50,000 worth of kits to people containing the following: an unused crack pipe, a mouthpiece, a filter, condoms.
The reason for this is because smoking crack, like shooting heroin or having unprotected sex, carries a high risk of spreading disease and of injuring the crack smoker.
Gustafson explains. "We provide harm-reduction service in Vancouver," the doctor says. "What you do in doing this is to provide the means for people using illegal substances to do so while reducing the risk of spreading disease. Knowing that there are an increasing number of crack users, you want to provide equipment that at least lets them use the drug safely."
In America, where legislators can't even pass a state-sponsored optional health-care plan because it's "communism," a publicly funded group handing anything to crack users besides a Bible and a kick in the pants would never happen.
Yet the crackheads remain.
Gustafson points to myriad of studies that show crack cocaine users as being at high risk for diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and herpes. Spreading disease affects the whole community, either directly by infecting them or indirectly by costing them tax money to pay for their treatment.
Preventative services like passing out clean crack pipes can help eliminate those risks early, saving money and improving health.
This kind of service is already done in cities all across the united states when it comes to heroin needles. But throw the word "crack" in there and people lose their shit. Read the comment section of the Vancouver Sun story for proof.
Gustafson has noticed too. "Not entirely sure why there's a more negative opinion [of crack versus heroin]," says Gustafson. "I think that the risk reduction associated with crack pipes is not as well-established as needle exchange."
That, or people simply hate crackheads more than heroin addicts.
At any rate, the VCH crack-pipe program is scheduled to start this fall.
In the meantime, crack addicts outside of Vancouver are encouraged to stop sharing pipes, use better filters, and for God's sake, don't have unprotected sex (advice that could benefit everyone).