Vancouver Tries Free Heroin Program

Monday , March 14, 2005



VANCOUVER, British Columbia — 

Just over the United States northwest border, addicts will soon be able to get their fix from the Canadian government in the form of free heroin (search) administered by nurses and doctors on the taxpayer's dime.

"They're using heroin. They'll continue to use heroin. What we're trying to do is prevent them from getting something irreversible like HIV, hep [hepatitis] C and overdose death,” said Dr. Martin Schechter, the director of the heroin program.

Vancouver is the first city to take part in the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, which plans to enroll 470 participants at three sites in Canada. The Toronto and Montreal sites are expected to begin recruiting candidates this spring.

Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham (search) is among supporters who say the heroin giveaway will let junkies shoot up without having to resort to theft or prostitution to buy their drugs. Breaking that cycle of crime, they argue, is the first step toward turning an addict's life around.

“I’m not a medical expert, this is not my field. I'm an expert in public safety," Graham said. "And if this will help reduce the crime rate — I'm all for it."

In the program all addicts have to do to get their fix is show up three times a day seven days a week.

Junkies offered different views of the program to FOX News. Some think it's the government's way of killing them, while others say they can't wait for the free dope. But none of them thought it would eventually get them clean.

"I think it would lower the crime rate. Nobody's gonna be robbing each other. Nobody's going to be sick enough to rob each other. All be taken care of. Free dope, woo-hoo,” said heroin addict Olivia Edgars.

Recovered addict Chuck Swesey - who's been clean 20 years - says the program smacks of government drug pushing. He says he knows how he would've ended under a program like this: "I'd be dead ... or I'd be in a jail or an institution."

The $8 million Canadian program is patterned after similar efforts in Europe.

Click on the video box above to see a complete report by FOX News' Dan Springer.