UW professor advocating for local hospitals to introduce safe spaces for illicit drug use

British Columbia has passed legislation to ensure that hospitals in the province provide a safe space for patients with substance-use disorders to consume illicit drugs. Dr. Wasem Alsabbagh, Associate Professor with the School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo, is urging Ontario to follow suit.

According to Dr. Alsabbagh, implementing safe consumptions sites and programs into local hospitals improves the safety of hospital patients and staff, and provides a lifeline for those at risk of overdose.

“We want to change the approach from ‘babysitting people who are trying to kill themselves’ to ‘saving valuable lives’,” said Dr. Alsabbagh.

He added that this wouldn’t be a blanket approach, and says the program would be most useful at hospitals in areas where illicit drug use is already prevalent, depending on the type of population they serve.

These proposed safe spaces wouldn’t just be a place to use illicit drugs, but a bridge to services aimed at addiction treatment and helping people out of their situation.

“It’s not meant to be the end of the road, it’s meant to be the start of the road of, hopefully, healing, and getting people back on their feet,” said Dr. Alsabbagh.

In his research, Dr. Alsabbagh found that people living in low-income neighborhoods are five times more likely to die of an overdose.

“The reality is there is an opioid epidemic taking place in Canada,” said Dr. Alsabbagh “Some places are hit harder than others, but the whole country is still, unfortunately, suffering from this epidemic.”

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