JUNKe Life

Vancouver’s Safer Injection Site facing renewal struggle…
July 28, 2006, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Drug Politics

Not so long ago I was feeling fairly proud about Canada’s place in the world. The country was strongly against the war in Iraq, wedding bells were ringing for gays and lesbians, pot was about to finally be decriminalized, and Vancouver was leading the way toward saner drug policy with the Insite safer injection site and NAOMI, a heroin-maintenence project approved by the federal government.

Just over a year ago a minority of Canadian electors (yet enough to clearly win the election) voted to switch the Conservatives for the Liberals as the party running the federal government. Since the Conservatives have ruled the roost I’ve become more and more saddened watching them denegrate of Canada’s traditional honest-broker peacekeeping role in Afghanistan and Iraq, a DEA-style raid on a pot cafe in Vancouver and potential extradition of Marc Emery to the insatiable war-on-drug-users U.S. prison machinery, and a definate switch in emphasis from harm reduction initiatives to simple minded law and order approaches to drug policy.

The safer injection site has been a great success. I’ve used it and its a very user-friendly facility. Some 600 of us are using it daily, and in just the past 18 months some 336 people have been brough back from overdose because they were using its facilities. No doubt if they’d shot up some a back alley, or alone in some flea-infested skid row dump, as they used to, the chances are pretty darn good that they’d be another statistic.

But the project is a three year pilot project and its term runs out the September 12. Unless the federal government renews its exemption from federal drug laws which enables people to bring their dope to Insite to use safely, the safer injection site won’t be able to operate. So a whole lot of community people from all walks of life in Vancouver are struggling hard to keep it open.

One recent demonstration involved VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users)and others planting 336 wooden crosses in a local park to draw attention to those who would have died in just the past year and a half if Insite wasn’t open 18 hours a day 7 days a week.

B.C. safe injection site supporters plant crosses

Safer Injection Site is Vancouvers safe place to shootup

Canadian Press Updated: Thu. Jul. 20 2006 11:45 PM ET

VANCOUVER — Supporters of Canada’s only safe injection site for intravenous heroin users erected 336 crosses at the edge of English Bay on Thursday to demonstrate how many lives might be lost if the site closes.

The number reflects the number of overdoses that occurred at the Insite facility in the Downtown Eastside between March 1, 2004 and August 30, 2005, said Gillian Maxwell of Insite For Community Safety.

None of the overdoses at the site resulted in a fatality.

“Insite has been very successful in saving lives. We want to illustrate that, to make it real for people by putting these crosses in the law here today, to show you how many peoples’ lives have been saved,” Maxwell said.

Health Canada is currently assessing the site to see whether it will renew the exemption that allows North America’s only safe injection site to operate legally.

The exemption expires Sept. 12.

“We want to tell the prime minister, that given this evidence, that if the doors close on Insite, many people will die as a consequence,” Maxwell said.

She said the site is a gateway for people to get into the health system so they can get help with their addictions.

The site, which opened in September 2003, is the first supervised injection facility in North America where drug users can inject their own drugs under the supervision of nurses.

Heroin user Darryl is one of those people trying to end the cycle of addiction.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said of his use of the safe injection site. “Two years ago, I overdosed. They saved my life, actually.”

For Susie Ruttan, Insite was the catalyst for her 24-year-old bipolar son to break away from his heroin habit. He had relapsed and went to Insite.

“He was really focused on his fix, of course, and then he looked up and in the bright lights of the mirror of Insite, he had this incredible epiphany. He saw his ravaged face and all the sores and how gaunt he looked.” Ruttan said.

He went to his mother’s house the same day and asked for help. “We got him on a plane to a treatment centre,” she said. “It was a very powerful experience for him.”

She wants Harper to approve the exemption’s extension.

“It could so easily be one of his kids,” she said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not committed one way or the other on keeping the facility open.

Earlier this week, a group of Australian parliamentarians called on Harper not to close the safe injection site for heroin addicts.

Harper has not committed on such a move but Health Canada officials must decide soon whether to extend the three-year exemption to Canada’s drug laws.

An assessment of the research results to date from the site are being reviewed, said a statement from Health Canada.

Proponents say they don’t understand why Harper isn’t committed to the facility that appears to have saved lives and slowed the spread of diseases such as HIV.

Harper told a news conference in May the Conservative government is still deciding on the fate of the site where addicts are allowed to shoot heroin or use other injection drugs under the supervision of health-care workers.

An application for the exemption to be extended was sent to Health Canada in the spring, said Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Viviana Zanocco.

Insite averages between 600 and 650 visitors a day. It performs about 200 overdoses interventions a year, she said.

The site has the support of current and former mayors of Vancouver.

The city of Victoria is also working towards getting a Health Canada exemption to allow for a supervised drug option site.

The University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research is preparing to conduct a six-month study to examine options for supervised drug use in Victoria.

Health officials say it’s a chance to make a significant dent in the number of users in the downtown core.

Since the election of the Conservatives Canada is receiving a brutal demonstration of how much difference an election can make. The U.S. election of Bush in 2000 provided four subsequent years of ugly demonstration as a war machine and police state revved up before a sombulent population. Yet, Bush was re-elected. And now he’s got a buddy in our Prime Minister (“I’m proud to have allies like Steve who understand the stakes of the 21st century,” said Bush.)

But what ya gonna do? No point in rolling over and surrendering. So, kudos to VANDU for its invitation to Prime Minister Harper to drop by and take a guided tour their turf and the user group’s willingness to open guerrilla safer injection sites if need be.

Oh geeezuzzzz, radio news reports that Harper and Bush are having a sit down at the White House this very second … My bad! I was just guilty of a thought crime… GuuaaaAWwww! … and things are only gonna get worse.

Nonetheless, if you’re not too jaded to send an email to Prime Minister Harper letting him know you’re a supporter of the safer injection site, just follow the links here

“Ah fuckkkit! Hey honey, is it fix time yet?”

“Does a pig snort and roll in shit?”

Never know what you’ll find…
July 18, 2006, 7:29 am
Filed under: JUNKe life

We’ve been doing well lately. An abundance of milk-blood to keep from running out. No worries. Yesterday morning I got a big surprise. It’s not really a big deal. But it’s a bit of a mystery. And since it’s still on my mind.

Yesterday morning I was awoken by my sweetie. Like many mornings, she was standing by my bedside, with our kitty in her arms, gently stating, “Time for our morning hit, my dear”. No doubt I would have slept solidly for several more hours but when she wants her morning hit, I know from experience that it’s pointless for me to roll over and try to catch some more zzzzz’s. She’d be back within minutes employing a more forceful method of awakening me.

So… I rolled out of bed, grabbed my housecoat and proceeded to the washroom to wash the sleep from my eyes. There’s nothing worse than trying to prepare our morning fix looking through a film of sand and gunk.

We use our trusty electric stove to do our cooking so next stop was the kitchen. I grabbed a few pills, washed the coating off them. As they dried, I washed last night’s residue from two spoons and dried them off. Then I rinsed them off with an alcohol swab. I took another alcohol swab and cleaned a few injection sites on my hands and arms, leaving my options open for which one I’d chose to use.

As I was swabbing the crook of my left arm – the traditional mainline spot (which has become a dried up creek instead of the swelled river it once was) – surprise! surprise! there was an enormous hard lump. Eh wot?!?! A fucking big miss.

I’d be damned if it wasn’t a big abscess. And I’d be further damned because I had no idea how I’d gotten it. It had been days since I last injected in that spot and I know I got all of that hit because I really felt it and even commented at the time that it always seems a bit more intense when I manage to hit that more direct vein. By the way, I’m one who likes the pins and needles and hot flushing of a good morphine hit, one that leaves me moaning or scretching with the agony and ecstasy of its burn, and I definately got it good that time.

If I hadn’t missed there, then how the hell was there suddenly a big solid lump there? And I do mean big. It was about the size of a silver dollar, and felt about a half inch in depth. It wasn’t yet hurting, and I doubt I would have even noticed it except that I swabbed there. But once I did feel it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Especially because I didn’t know when I’d missed a hit, nor where I’d missed one, that would cause such a big lump to form there.


I’ve been messing up a bit of late so I wasn’t completely suprised that I’d messed up some hit somehow.  But still, missing a hit and not realizing it was really messing up.  And yet, how about my burning a hole in the carpet sometime in the middle of the previous night?  Yeah, I did that.  And that’s messing up, isn’t it?  I’d gotten out of bed (always a good idea) to have a smoke and sat at the foot of the bed on the carpet in front of the television. Next thing I remember was lighting up a smoke, and after a haul, as I was laying it into the ashtray beside my knee, I noticed something glowing on the carpet beside it.

Lo and behold if it wasn’t another light cigarette, barely half burnt down, burning a hole in the carpet. Stunned, I realized I must have lit that initial cigarette, nodded out back into sleep, dropped it on the carpet, woke a few minutes later, and deciding to have a smoke, not realizing I’d just lit one. So I lit up another. It was only after the first puff of the second smoke that I saw the first one burning a hole in the carpet. Aha, indeed I’ve been getting fairly wasted of late. And obviously, a bit sloppy.

And indeed it must be that somewhere within the daze of being wasted lately (hehe, pun there) that I missed an entire hit and didn’t even realize it at the time. How else would I find a big lump of an abscess from a hit I didn’t realize I’d missed?

So, for the past 24 hours, I’ve been doing my usual self-care when I have a miss. I put hot compresses on it to soften the solidity of the lump, and then gently apply pressure, hoping to loosen it up a bit. I’ve read that you shouldn’t try to break open a big lump, but that is a lump of infection, whereas this lump is just the solidifying of a hit of morphine substance under the skin.

What I’m hoping by applying heat and pressure is to assist it in disolving itself into the surrounding tissue so that it doesn’t further harden into such a mass that can become infected. However, I know from previous misses that it will likely become increasinly sore over the next several days, and it will probably be fairly painful at about a week. But then, once it reaches that threshold, it will start to disapate, and will disappear over the following week. Little harm, and no real foul.

But again, this mystery: what hit did I miss, and miss a lot of, that would have caused such a lump?

Well, there was one hit I recall that likely was the culprit. I was really quite out of it at the time, and was kind of veering into sloppiness of being over-opiated. But nonetheless, we decided to do one more hit before retiring for the day. For this particular hit, I’d inserted the needle into the main vein on the back of my hand. However, when I flagged, no blood appeared. Nevertheless, I was so certain the needle tip was in a vein that I just assumed that a little bit of dried morphine gunk had dried within the tip causing it to be slightly plugged. So rather than pull out, clear the plug, and re-insert into another vein, I just decided, albeit recklessly, to inject where I was by forcing through whatever little plug there might be.

Believe me, I don’t recommend such risky behaviour. I normally am very conciencious about safe injecting and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve stupidly gone ahead and injected after not seeing any blood when I’ve flagged. But I was so certain I was in a vein, even though, as I said, I knew I was getting somewhat sloppy.

I remember feeling very little from that injection, but at the time I just chalked that up to being already so saturated in morphine that that hit wasn’t enough to bang me to the next perceivable level. And I definately didn’t see an instant ballon swell at the injection point which indicates a miss into surrounding tissue. Such swelling normally happens so quickly when there’s a miss that I can usually stop the pressure of injecting within the first two or three cc’s going astray and I’ll immediately pull out with the fit essentially still full. But this time there was no indication that I was missing. So I injected the whole 1cc fit full of 100 units of liquified morphine gunk.

I’ve been thinking about this abscess for a day now and I still find it perplexing. Did I miss that whole shot in the back of my hand? And, rather than bubbling up at that spot, somehow the liquid travelled up the outside of the vein and collected in the crook of my arm? I guess that’s possible because what else could have caused this big lump to form there?

Needless to say, I’ve been taking extra care with my shots since my surprise find yesterday morning. Like every junkie everywhere, I really hate to waste a shot. And I only need this one wakeup call, to realize I was getting too laize-faire with the abundance of stock we’re lucky enough to have on hand of late.

Oh well, what’s life without a little mystery?