While needle exchange advocates claim that such programs effectively prevent the spread of blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, the latest report from Vancouver, which boasts the largest needle exchange program (NEP) in North America, suggest otherwise. In fact, this report’s ‘smoking gun’ is its finding that both HIV and Hepatitis C have reached ‘saturation’ among the injection drug using population, meaning few if any of who are not already infected are left to become newly infected.
Here are some of the reports specific findings: In 2002, nearly 3 million needles were distributed by NEPs in the City. Injection drug use was the main mode of HIV transmission in British Columbia from 1994 to 2000. Today injecting drug use and men having sex with men tie as the top risk factors for new HIV cases.
Vancouver began its NEP in 1988, and the number of new HIV infections among injecting drug users (IDUs) increased every year thereafter until peaking in 1996. A 1997 study of more than 1,400 Vancouver IDUs revealed an annual HIV infection rate of 18 percent– the highest level anywhere in the developed world and one of the highest incidence rates reported anywhere worldwide The number of new positive tests began to increase again in 2002 and estimates for 2002 anticipate a further increase. This report notes that many infected injecting drug users have not been tested, so these rates are likely to be higher. The current HIV prevalence among Vancouver IDUs is 35 percent.
The report attributes the HIV incidence peak in 1996 not to the success of needle exchange, but rather to ‘the near saturation’ of HIV infection among IDUs, meaning after 1996 there were few drug addicts left to become newly infected. Needle exchange not only failed to prevent HIV from reaching a saturation point among Vancouver IDUs, but also had the same lack of effectiveness if preventing the spread of hepatitis C (HCV). This report notes that like HIV, HCV has also reached a saturation point among Vancouver IDUs with over 80 percent infected with the incurable and deadly blood borne disease. Nearly two-thirds of Vancouver HCV cases are attributable to injection drug use with Vancouver’s HCV rate being nearly four-times higher than the rate for Canada as a whole.
In 1997, the reported rate of newly identified hepatitis B infections another blood born disease often spread by needle sharing– in Vancouver was eight times the rate for the rest of British Columbia and the highest rate in Canada. The leading cause of death of Vancouver drug addicts is overdose, accounting for 25 percent of deaths among those who are HIV-positive and 42 percent among those who are HIV-negative. Although the overall British Columbia crime rate has decreased over the past decade, drug offenses have increased by 63%. A study by the Canadian centre on Substance Abuse estimated that half of gainful crimes such as theft, break and enter, and robberies were attributed to substance abuse.
Source: Vancouver drug Epidemiology report 2003, Posted on www.ccsa.ca/ccendu/pdf/report
Marijuana use and Trends
What’s Down with Marijuana?
What has the latest research shown us about marijuana? Among other things, marijuana has now been linked to violent teen behaviour, may be responsible for youth tongue cancer, and has been shown in weekly users to trigger suicidal depression. For those with a disposition toward other serious mental illness, marijuana has been found to unleash it.
Marijuana usage up somewhat
The myth among youth is that ‘everyone is doing it.’ In fact, the majority is not – 51 percent of high school seniors have never tried marijuana even once. However, 22 percent of seniors are ‘current’ (past month) users of marijuana. The hard-core, or daily marijuana users (20 or more times in the past 30 days) remain a small portion of youth: 5.8 percent of seniors, 4.5 percent of sophomores, and 1.3 percent of eighth graders.
New use and historical patterns
There have been ebbs and flows in use of marijuana over the past 40 years. About 2.4 million Americans tried marijuana for the first time in 2000. This was a substantial increase from 600,000 new users in 1965, However, initiation in the marijuana world peaked in 1976-1977 at 3.2 million, and dipped to its lowest figure in decades at 1.4 million in 1990. New users rose from there until hitting 2.5 million in 1996, where it has remained for half a decade.
Marijuana has been on the American scene for at least a century. In 1906, it was proscribed under the Pure Food and Drug Act. In 1914, Utah was the first state to pass anti marijuana legislation; by 1931, 29 states had prohibited the medical use of marijuana. In 1936, the government film, ‘Reefer Madness’ was released; it is still a cult film. In 1970. the Federal Government eliminated mandatory sentencing for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The peak year for teen use of marijuana was 1979. In 1985, synthetic THC, or Marinol, was produced to relieve the nausea of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously voted down medical marijuana laws. That same year, the #1 rap song “Because I Got High” by Afroman spoke about the destructive effects of marijuana