As the old adage has it, if you live long enough, you see everything. In the world of substance abuse and addiction, “everything” was in the news today. A group from Vancouver’s notorious hub of drug addiction and policy experimentation, the Downtown East Side, is proposing that a publicly funded, peer-run drinker’s lounge dispensing free legal alcohol to alcoholics be instituted as a means of harm reduction. The Eastside Illicit Drinkers Group for Education, whose spokesman, Rob Morgan, an alcoholic from a First Nations reserve near Terrace, B.C, sees the idea as the natural next step in Vancouver’s famous harm reduction movement. The lounge would be modeled on Insite, the safe injection site whose mandate is not to rehabilitate addicts, but to reduce the rates of disease and death caused by unhygienic consumption and unsupervised overdoes. Mr. Morgan’s logic is impeccable. Desperate alcoholics will drink anything with alcohol in it; they will drink hand sanitizer acquired from “dealers” who steal them from hospitals, as Mr Morgan has; they will share disease-ridden bottles; they sometimes freeze to death in an alcoholic stupor; and for only $3, and some water dilution, will consume 30 standard drinks from a 250 ml bottle of 95% rubbing alcohol. The ravages produced on the body by such a regime certainly rival any depredations short of AIDS suffered by drug addicts.
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