Should hard drugs be criminalized? (Crosstown Clinic)

In a small clinic in downtown Vancouver, a patient walks up to the dispensary counter to get her prescription filled. She ties a rubber band tightly around her arm, jabs a syringe into a vein, and injects the drug treatment she's received. That drug is heroin.

Heroin is often perceived as a killer a drug that conjures up images of desperation and uncontrollable addiction; a downward spiral of crimes, catastrophes and early death.

But the Providence Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver has been giving out free heroin to addicts for several years; it's the only treatment centre in North America where addicts get actual heroin. They say harm-reduction techniques are more effective than law enforcement in getting addicts off drugs, reducing crime, and saving money for the health care system.

Critics argue free heroin only coddles and enables drug addicts and prolongs addiction rather than ending it.

But more and more Canadian cities aim to offer harm reduction services for drug addicts. Vancouver has long had a supervised injection site. Kamloops B.C. recently opened one. Other cities, such as Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Hamilton to name a few, are looking at doing the same. 

Duncan McCue hosts. Listen to the entire episode here.