The War on Drugs has been a dismal failure as we see in the continuing drama of the Downtown Eastside (Vancouver), the homeless numbers, the active substance users, crime, incarcerations, police actions. Now in combination with Covid, the staggering numbers of illicit drug toxicity deaths which has increased by 74 per cent in British Columbia. In 2020, in Maple Ridge, 35 of our young and middle aged people died as a result of toxic drugs. Our son was one of them, and died in October.
Criminalizing substance use takes valuable police time, court time, prison sentences. 911 calls for “overdoses” are causing burnout for our emergency responders and delays responses for other urgent calls. That combined with the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues ensures the same issues persist. Treatment programs and recovery homes have no national standards, have unrealistic claims and goals, have no national standards and are often not licensed or registered with the government
This should not be the only option for our youth or any of our citizens.
New information and studies are finally debunking the myth that substance use is a character flaw, a lack of morals, bad parenting. Brain science now shows that there are certain characteristics in the brain of people who have substance use disorder and needs to be recognized as a medical disorder.
Decriminalization of small amounts of illicit substances will take some pressure off the judicial system and help remove the stigma. But it must be part of a complete overhaul of policies that govern illicit drugs and misuse of pharmaceutical medications. First of all we need to treat and respect people who use substances as individuals with a medical problem. Remove the stigma that is associated with their lives and provide for their basic needs. So that fewer people die as our son did.
Debbie Picco, Pitt Meadows
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