"British Columbia's prison system has become a health and addiction system of last resort, according to a new study from SFU , which found that three-quarters of people admitted to B.C. prisons in 2017 suffered from addiction or mental health issues — up from 61 per cent in 2009. Complex care cases — people with a combination of addiction and mental health needs — more than doubled in the same time period, from 15 to 32 per cent. That’s approximately 10 times the national average, estimated at between two and four per cent."

“This is a multiple systems failure that we’re seeing,” said Amanda Butler, lead author of the study. “I think a lot of these folks have been failed by every other service system before they come into contact with the criminal justice system.”

Damning indictments indeed, but it’s the Why, and the Wherefore that must be investigated, if we are going to attempt to remedy this growing, and seemingly, uncontrollable mess.

Many interpretations will be gleaned from this very concerning emergence, and depending on one’s confirmation bias metric, finger pointing will go in many directions.

One perspective we'd like to bring to this, is one that is all too often quickly buried by the pro-drug hijackers of 'Harm Reduction' models.

As we have written time and time again on this issue, Harm Reduction (an important pillar in drug policy) is supposed to be about minimising short- and long-term harms to the drug user, WHILST enabling, equipping, and empowering them to EXIT drug use! Hmmmm? Since the sector charged with reducing the harms of drug use (including not just the 'harms' to the drug user) have stopped focusing on drug use exiting, the harms have only increased. 

One of the foundational causes of this ever burgeoning chaos, is of course, DRUG USE.  If one doesn’t use drugs, the harms do NOT occur! 

Ah, but I hear the vociferous objections of the stakeholders in this failing misuse of policy; 'That's over simplifying the situation, the reasons behind drug use are complex'. 

Now, we start the 'spelunking' of the social determinants. Social Determinants 19-08-21b.pdf (dalgarnoinstitute.org.au) this malaise.

There is no argument from us that there may be many catalysts for initial uptake, but once drug using starts, the substance then becomes one of the key drivers to drug seeking behaviour, if not the sole one, once dependency presents.

A ‘circuit breaker’ in the drug use/seeking behaviour is an imperative. If ‘Harm Reduction’ mechanisms, do not have a ‘circuit breaker’ in its arsenal in the fight against this individual and community destroying behaviour, then it continues to fight this insidious foe with one hand tied behind it’s back.

‘Liquid handcuffs’ (substance substitute options) https://nobrainer.org.au/index.php/search-our-site?q=liquid+handcuffs&Search=  can be part of a ‘circuit breaker’, if and ONLY if, the clear and scheduled cessation of drug use is the immovable goal.  Yet, all too often, we see this potential vehicle for exiting drug use only become another individual undermining chemical dependence.

So, when all the syringes have been handed out. All the drug consumption rooms have been engaged. All the free chemical substitutes have been administered… and drug use continues, and grows, then where does a community go in the longing to free these slaves to substances, and the heart broken casualties that are their family, friends, and colleagues?

The failed misused policy ends up where British Columbia finds itself. The only ‘circuit breaker’ remaining is ‘secure welfare’ – which in almost all cases is interpreted as the prison system.

Sadly, the incarceration is not just the exasperated last resort for the recalcitrant drug user, it’s also what the drug use has led to, that so often facilitates criminal proceedings. Everything from acquisitional crime to violence, public nuisance or other society impacting ripple effects from this distressing behaviour.  

When you’re dealing with a (more often than not) intractable life controlling issue, coercive vehicles are needed to start the change process. To quote the now famous recovering addict, Actor Robert Downy Jnr, “It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems [drug addiction]… what’s hard is to decide to do it.” 


Pity, it is said looks at a problem superficially and throws a token ‘kindness’ at the issue and walks away. Compassion, however, insists on restoration, not just ‘recalibration’, and therefore cannot condone a ‘kindness’ that doesn’t only not end the grief, but adds to it.

When the ‘Judicial Educator’ – the law – is employed for this compassionate end, then seemingly punitive responses, are transformed to restorative ones, and coercion is used not to bring retribution, rather restoration, we see a proactive outcome for all involved. (see https://www.dalgarnoinstitute.org.au/advocacy/dalgarno-aod-policy/1597-prisoners-graduate-from-unique-addiction-breaking-program-at-casuarina.html )

Yet, there is perhaps still one more unfolding in this sad saga – and an arguably cynical one at that, but bear with us.

What if the agenda of the gatekeepers of the ‘harm reduction’ policy have little to no regard for the cessation of drug use? Instead, they seek only to sanitize and normalise drug use? Create a tsunami of substance use behaviour that simply can’t be ‘managed’ by criminal justice, or now even ‘health policy’. It can only be allowed to exist un-impugned, simply tolerated.

Sadly, we have dealt with such stakeholders and their well-masked agenda.

When a society becomes enamoured with the pursuit of pleasure, that it now perceives even ‘failed entitlements to ‘happiness’, normal vicissitudes of life, or even emotional inconveniences, as trauma that need to be ‘medicated away’ with the ‘buzz of the gear’, you know that public health and well-being policy is in trouble – as is the community and its families it is charged to serve.

Shane Varcoe

75 per cent of people sent to B.C. prisons struggle with addiction, mental health: study | Vancouver Sun

Need Counselling

Do you, or someone you know have already taken up drugs and alcohol and you’re concerned?

The following agencies/groups can be a real help.

Teen Challenge

Phone: (03) 5852 3777

Fresh Start

Recovery Programme
Helping Families With Addiction

Therapeutic Communities

for AOD dependencies

Therapeutic Community

Addiction, there is a way out!

NSW Therapeutic Community

Rescue – Restore – Rebuild

Alcoholics Anonymous

Clean Slate Clinic

SHARC-Oxford Houses

Sherwood Cliffs Rehab

Phone (02) 6649 2139

Remar Rehabilitation

Phone: (03) 5659-6307
Mobile: 0419 436 687


Phone: (07) 55 923 677

Seahaven Private – Rehabilitation

Phone: (03) 8738 4252 

Life International Counselling and Coaching

email: info @ lifeinternational.com.au

Womens Domestic Violence Crisis Centre

Phone: 24 Hours - 1800 015 188

Positive Lifestyle Counselling Services Dandenong

The Cyrene Centre

Suite 5, 49-54 Douglas Street, Noble Park 3174
Phone: (03) 9574 6355


7 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy 3065
Phone: (03)94956144

Living Springs Counselling Centre

Berwick Church of Christ

446 Centre Road, Berwick, Victoria, 3806
Phone: (03) 9702 1011

Pastor Larry Edwards Counselling

Dandenong Church of Christ

139 David Street, Dandenong, Victoria, 3175
Mobile: 0410 613 056

Total Wellbeing Centre

Suite 1 / 857 Doncaster Rd,
Doncaster East, Victoria, 3109
Phone: (03) 9855 9555

Woman's Domestic Violence Crisis

Phone:1800 015 188

Eagles Wings Rehabilitation Centre

Phone: (03) 5726 5060

DasWest Drug & Alcohol Services

Details Pending

Odyssey House Victoria

Addiction Center

Alcohol Rehab

- Treating Alcoholism -

Narcotics Anonymous Australia

Addiction Resources for North America