The increase in the consumption of opioid drugs in Canada has led to overdose prevention centers that offer peer-assisted drug injection and supervised drug injection. The author shows that different sites offer different services. For example, Mike’s site in Moss Park is a peer-assisted injection site where volunteers like Mike inject the users with safe doses of opioids. The volunteers offer a hands-on approach and are meant to offer temporary emergency services (Glauser, 2018). Safe drug injection sites like the one in Vancouver offer more services and are permanent. The author champions peer-assisted injection sites because they save lives, prevent the risk of infection and offer inclusivity to vulnerable groups that are turned away from other health care service providers.
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The overseeing of the sites is done by volunteers who offer new sterilized needles, help the users find the veins, and monitor the doses that they inject. The volunteers can reverse an overdose by treating it with naloxone or oxygen (Glauser, 2018). The author states that having people monitor the drug use puts them in a position where they can prevent the users from overdosing, which in the long run helps save lives (Glauser, 2018). If a user overdoses in other areas such as their homes or a club, they might not access immediate help and likely lose their lives.
Recently the provincial government has allocated funds to these sites to help run the place. This is because they have seen the positive impact they have had in communities. These sites operate on the principle of harm reduction. Harm reduction advocates have called for setting up more sites. David Jensen, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health, addressed the benefits of such sites. He said, “if not permitted, individuals who require this support would likely inject elsewhere and potentially in unsafe conditions” (Glauser, 2018, para. 6). Furthermore, he admitted in an email, “It is one additional way to prevent death” (Glauser, 2018, par. 6). While the former provincial government provided funds for peer-assisted injection sites, many fear that the new government may close them down. If this were to happen, it would increase the number of deaths caused by drug abuse. However, the federal government may decide to allow peer assistance in the supervised injection sites they fund. Although six out of thirty supervised injection sites have been allowed to offer peer assistance, advocates claim it is not enough and continue pushing for the approval of more sites.
There have been reports of people being sent away from supervised injection sites because they have a hard time injecting themselves. The people are forced to go to other places to get their shot. Nurse Ovens states that when the drug users are in withdrawal, they can experience shakes that make it difficult to inject properly. With each trial, the user introduces bacteria to their system that can be harmful and cause infections (Glauser, 2018, para. 10). Since the user does not have access to a clean space and new needles, they may hide in areas like bathrooms to pick up an infection or get diseases from sharing needles.
Women and people living with disabilities, according to research, have a hard time injecting themselves. Unfortunately, safe injection sites often turn them away. They, therefore, require assistance offered in the peer injecting sites. According to Gagnon, a registered nurse, and president of the Harm Reduction Nurses Association, there needs to be more inclusivity in supervised injection sites. She said, “you can’t make your service only for people who have the knowledge to inject” (Glauser, 2018, para. 11.) Denying women and people with disabilities assistance is discriminatory since people are granted access to the services even though they do not need it as much as these vulnerable groups. Mike gives an example of his friend whose physical condition has deteriorated considerably. He has leaking wounds that stink, but he will not go to the hospital. Instead, he uses the peer-assisted injection sites where he is not discriminated against or turned away because of his condition (Glauser, 2018, para 13). Peer-assisted injection sites have created a safe space where people like Mike’s friend can get the help they need without the stigma.
According to Jane Eastwood, a senior director at the Fred victor center explains that peer-assisted injection sites are not just about providing safe drug doses. They are “layered with issues on human rights, access to healthcare, gender, and disability” (Glauser, 2018, para. 12.) Therefore, denying certain groups the help they need violates their basic human right to healthcare. Offering one group quality healthcare while leaving a more vulnerable group to fend for themselves is discrimination. It should be dealt with appropriately to ensure everyone has access to the right services.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the government needs to treat these peer-assisted drug injection sites as essential services. By doing so, they ensure the sites stay open as hospitals and other health facilities are. The government could offer protective gear (PPEs) to the volunteers working in these sites to keep them safe from infection of COVID-19. The volunteers are then able to monitor the users and keep the rate of mortality low.
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Glauser, W. (2018). The Case for Assisted Drug Injection | The Walrus. The Walrus. Web.