MONTREAL -- Giving heroin to hardcore drug addicts at a Montreal clinic did not sully the surrounding neighbourhood with undesirables, used syringes, graffiti, drug trafficking or petty crime, a study suggests.
Research by Serge Brochu of the University of Montreal's School of Criminology on the impact of a pilot drug-treatment program on area residents and merchants found no link between medical heroin and crime.
The preliminary results of a groundbreaking study conducted in Vancouver called NAOMI ( North American Opiate Medication Initiative ) had already found that giving "untreatable" addicts their daily fix helped stabilize their lives and improve their health.
But until now no one had looked at the effect of such a project on a community, Brochu said.
"There's always this 'Not in my backyard' attitude," Brochu said. "It's good for the patient but if it's not good for the community then we have a problem. They're coming for treatment three times a day. What will they do, hang out on the stairwell?"
But fears the Montreal clinic would bring violence, loitering, trash and crime to its hip neighbourhood were unfounded, Brochu said. A simultaneous study of surroundings of the NAOMI clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside also found no rise in crime.
Brochu's team fanned out over a three-block radius of the Montreal clinic, making more than 180 visits to nearby streets, alleyways, parks and parking lots.
Researchers also had access to police crime data from 2002 to 2008, and they interviewed 40 area residents, homeless people, merchants, social workers and security guards.
Given the beneficial impact on drug-users' health and no negative impact on the urban area, Brochu said, "This program should live and the government should continue to fund it."
The project ended last spring and its 59 patients were given other treatment options, including methadone and detox.
By Charlie Fidelman
February 18, 2009