An injection kit is seen inside the Fraser Health supervised consumption site in Surrey, B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Rickter Scale: Our approach to addiction needs a fix

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column in the Goldstream News Gazette

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

It’s time to declare defeat and officially wave the white flag on the war on drugs.

Our methods of dealing with the deluge of devastated souls, destruction and crime resulting from the drug trade is clearly not working.

Ill-begotten gains on a global scale to the tune of trillions of dollars makes it as evident as the tracks on your neighbour’s arms that there’s no shortage of those poised to profit from the desperation and despair attached to addiction.

Cartels and criminal organizations around the world continue to line their pockets on the backs of lost souls bent on committing crimes to procure their poison of choice.

It’s time governments and law enforcement declare a conditional surrender because what we do now doesn’t solve the problem that directly or indirectly plagues us all. The sheer weight of numbers, common sense and economics underline that our punishment-based approach has accomplished little in reducing the amount of people plunging into the abyss.

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Perhaps it’s time to pull a page from Portugal’s playbook and other jurisdictions that have demonstrated success by changing the way we deal with a disease that affects all facets of society and every walk of life.

If we target addiction through harm reduction, treatment and education, we are, at a threadbare minimum, going to reduce the number of families ripped to shreds at a rate that climbs every day.

Free drugs in a controlled environment, with counselling in place aimed at rehabilitation, will not be cheap or easy, but the cost is considerably less compared to the associated issues we pay for with little evidence of success.

At the bare minimum, those who stray down that path won’t have to rob, steal, kill or peddle their bodies to feed a habit they’re incapable of controlling.

Providing free, safe access will turn off the tap and cut the flow of profits to organized crime. Police resources, already stretched paper thin, will not have to be diverted to deal with mental health issues and societal problems that should never fall under their umbrella.

Our over-cluttered courtrooms and correctional facilities would certainly welcome the breathing room created by treating addiction like the disease it is, as opposed to the crime it has become.

We haven’t found a magic cure or cold turkey concoction that can completely quell the urge to self destruct, but rehabilitation has shown proven results. It’s obvious the status quo – a revolving door of catch, punish and release without removing the hook – is not working.

Ask any mother who’s lost a child filled with life, love and promise buried alive under an avalanche of cravings they could not control if it’s worth considering a different, safer, saner approach. There’s ample proof already that you save more addicts through counselling and rehabilitation than by steering them untreated into a cell.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.


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