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Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users to help addicts inject themselves September 1, 2005 - canada.com
VANCOUVER (CP) - Addicts, crippled and blinded by their drug use and too sick to shoot themselves up, will be helped by a volunteer team of users to get high safely.
Forty members of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users will be patrolling the Downtown Eastside, a slum and open drug market that teems with disease, offering injection education and assistance.
"Most of the stats show people who are incapable of injecting themselves or have a hard time have the highest rate of HIV," said Diane Tobin, the new and first female president of the users' harm reduction group.
VANDU, which is wholly run by volunteers, has 12 members trained and walking the alleys now. Tobin said they hope to get a room where people can also come to them.
"There's a huge need out there," said Tobin, who is back on heroin to deal with withdrawal from methadone.
"A lot of people can't inject because of blindness, injury, stroke. They're still heroin addicts. They're at the mercy of anybody and a lot of the time they don't use clean needles. It's whatever's in their pockets."
The problem of assisted injection has been highlighted in a recent report from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS that shows people who need help injecting illicit drugs are twice as likely to become HIV infected.
Women and young injectors are also more likely than other injection drug users to need help injecting.
Health Canada is calling for a change to the law that prevents peers and nurses in the city's sanctioned safe injection site from helping people inject.
Health care workers can only supervise and offer medical assistance if a user hurts themselves and gets sick or overdoses.
If nurses help an addict shoot up, they could be charged with possession or trafficking.
"We need them to help," said Tobin.
"And we need more places like the safe injection site. It's so busy now, it's being used all the time and people are sitting on the street, getting people who don't know what they're doing to inject them."
VANDU is also busy coping with the hot heroin going around the Downtown Eastside.
It has been blamed for a recent cluster of nine overdoses.
Tobin is trying to spread the word to users to taste their drugs first.
"Good heroin has a bitter taste. The bad stuff has a more chemical taste. Do it with a friend and help each other. Don't do it alone," she said.
Police said they are now wondering whether some of what people are calling "hot heroin" is actually methadone stolen from a Vancouver Downtown Eastside pharmacy.
Vancouver police spokesman Const. Howard Chow said overdosing could be caused if people are buying methadone believing it's heroin and using it as such.
Methadone is a prescription narcotic given to addicts to help them kick heroin.
Further tests will be done to see if other drugs were responsible for the deaths and police noted the victims may have thought the drug cocktail they were buying was heroin.
dude, right on. this is what america needs to do to solve their problems instead of throwing everyone behind bars. in america, if you dont get HIV from the needle, your gonna get it from big bubbas cock. right on you canuckaf00's!