Could Vancouver become Drug-addiction free

Posted by Dr. Hamdy El-Rayes, August 15, 2018

Could Vancouver become the first drug-addiction free City?

The City of Vancouver was the first North American city to open Supervised Injection Site (September 2003). However, after 15 years, the overdose fatalities in Vancouver has risen by 820%. In comparison, Portugal which started its drug policy two years earlier has succeeded to reduce its overdose fatalities by 93%.

Today, Vancouver is leading North America in the number of overdose fatalities. If Vancouver adopts a holistic plan to eliminate drug-addiction, not just to avert drug-induced death, the City will lead the world in solving the drug addiction problem.

The plan would deal with substance abuse as a health issue with the objective of having a healthier, safer, drug-addiction free community. This plan would be more successful than that of Portugal because it will put more emphasis on the prevention program. The program would not be a burden on taxpayers because it would add value to our economy as research indicates—every $1 invested in prevention could add up to $65 to the economy.

The plan would curtail the supply and demand for drugs simultaneously.

On the demand side, the plan would offer effective programs to help drug addicts with treatment and recovery. For intermittent drug users, they would be taught skills to help them not fall into the addiction trap. The prevention program would be offered to all illicit drug users and those who may be vulnerable to substance abuse.

On the supply side, we need to weed out those who run the illicit drug trade from its roots not just try to interrupt the flow of drugs as the City has done in the past 15 years. At the meantime, we need to help street drug dealers and those who are undergoing the treatment and recovery programs to find an honest job in collaboration with businesses and subsidized by government programs to help in their transition to becoming productive members of the community.

Prevention would include programs to help drug addicts, intermittent drug users, and those who may be vulnerable to substance abuse due to physical illness (pain), mental illness and other personal issues relating to employment, housing, family relations, and other social, or financial difficulties.

In 2017, 1421 people died of drug overdose in BC. Not one single drug dealer was held responsible. Doesn’t this look like as if we are in a drug legalized zone?

Some advocates are calling for decriminalization of drugs believing that the success of Portugal was due to decriminalization. This is a misconception because, in Portugal, drugs are still illegal.

If police find someone with illicit drugs, they arrest him and weigh the drugs. If the amount is above the strictly enforced threshold limits of 10-day supply for personal use, he could be charged as a trafficker. If convicted, jail terms range from one year to 14 years.

If the amount is below the limit, he is sent the following day to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction to be interviewed by a psychologist or social worker before appearing before a three-person panel. The panel offers suggestions aimed at helping him stop drug use.

The addict is immediately receives the services required, but If he refuse help, he could be asked to do community service, face a fine and confiscate his positions to pay it.

For those who are completely drug-dependent, the medical services offer them substitute medication and continue to help them move forward toward increasing their abilities to function and finally quit using.

The Vancouver Drug-addiction elimination program would be more successful than that of Portugal and would add value to our economy because we will put more emphasis on prevention which means we will help the most vulnerable to enjoy a happier, healthier life, creating a motive for them NOT to get into substance abuse.


Dr. Hamdy El-Rayes is an independent council candidate. He is the founder and Director of his own foundation, H.R. Mental Wellness Centre, which served thousands of British Columbians who struggle with mental illness and addictions in the past 13 years.