Sunday, December 02, 2007

Noon on Dec. 2, in a driving rain:

I'm just coming out of a five-week stretch of looking at street issues in Victoria's downtown for the Times-Colonist, and am filled with thoughts of the people and the problems I encountered along the way. It's immensely discouraging - as bad as I thought the situation was, which was pretty damn bad, it's actually so much worse. I fear for the future if things don't start to change, and can't bear the thought of where it will all end up by the time my grandchildren grow into adults in another 15 years.

Somehow in our misguided attempt at charitable action, we've ended up providing people with just enough of the basics to maintain them in their misery. They have to work so hard to try to get out, and we make it as hard as possible by adding to the difficulty at every step of the way.

Consider methadone, for instance, particularly on this rainy and miserable day in December. Methadone is a prescription drug that is used as a replacement for heroin. You don't need to inject it, one dose lasts 24 hours, and the people who respond well to it are essentially able to just get on with a regular life.

But methadone is also a narcotic, and thousands of people who take the prescription drug are considered too unstable in their addiction to be given their methadone to take home. What that means is that every day, they have to go to the drug store - and only certain stores, because most pharmacies don't sell methadone - to take their daily dose in the presence of the pharmacist.

On a day like to day, anyone who's on methadone but not allowed "carries" had to head out into the driving rain for their morning "juice." Unless they are on disability and successful in scrounging up the $45 for an annual bus pass, they'll need to have bus fare of $5 in correct change in their pockets. They'll need to ride the bus for however long it takes to get there, then do it all over again to get home.

Every day. Every single day, as if forced to prove to all of us that they are worthy of recovery, that they want it badly enough. If anything goes wrong and they can't make it to the drug store, they will be very, very sick in short order.

Or they can call up a heroin dealer and have the drug delivered to their door in minutes.

What would you do?

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