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Return to Galileo? The Inquisition of the International Narcotic Control Board (2008)

Return to Galileo? The Inquisition of the International Narcotic Control Board (2008)

  1. Jatelka
    Harm Reduction Journal 2008 May 7;5(1):16

    Small D, Drucker E

    ABSTRACT: Nearly 400 years after Galileo Galilei of Florence was arraigned and convicted of suspected heresy by the ten member Congregation of the Holy Office (Inquisition), the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) is similarly inserting itself into matters pertaining to innovations in healthcare and the public health response to addiction throughout the world. Like that earlier Inquisition of 1633 that convicted Galileo of heresy for holding that the sun is the centre of the universe with the earth revolving around it (in contradiction to church doctrine of the time) the INCB and its thirteen-member panel, now rails against any evidence out of sync with the established doctrine of the war on drugs - particularly those innovations in public health called harm reduction. The latest healthcare and harm reduction practices to attract the ire of the INCB Inquisition are elements of Canada's most effective and innovative measures to minimize the harms of drugs in Vancouver - supervised injection facilities and, recently, the potential establishment of supervised inhalation rooms - along with the long established practice of providing safer mouthpieces for pulmonary inhalation in British Columbia. This is particularly significant as it comes in the midst of a crucial battle between municipal and provincial authorities in BC with the federal government in Ottawa, which seems determined to undermine all the most effective HR programs that are the result of years of steady local and governmental support in Vancouver and now threatens to derail all these programs and spread doubt about their usefulness despite the overwhelmingly positive findings of serous research. The Grand Inquisitor of the INCB Board, Chairman Dr. Philip Emafo, makes it his practice to issue stern warnings to Canada and all progressive countries that make HR their national policy and innovate HR practices. On behalf of the INCB Inquisition, Emafo pronounces that all countries must abandon the defense and practice of the dark arts of harm reduction and (like Galileo) must also publicly recant, condemning their leading population health initiatives in addiction work. If they do not, then the countries in question are accused of drug policy heresy. Ironically, while the INCB was proclaiming its newest round of objections to evidenced based approaches to addiction in the first week of March 2008, at the very same time the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, with its headquarters in the Holy See under the direct protection of the Supreme Pontiff was helping to disavow the Inquisitions of Galileo four centuries ago, momentously announcing its plans to erect a statue of Galileo in Vatican City. Will the INCB likewise see the error of its ways and recant its own betrayal of the health and human rights of people with serious addictions? Today we are at a cross roads in Canada--will we defend the truth of evidence-based approaches to the pandemic of addiction, by the light of the lessons learned from this history, or return to the darkness of a time we thought long past?