After years of pleading, debating and waiting, the Quebec Ministry of Health officially released the funds to open three supervised injection sites (SIS), as well as one mobile unit in Montreal. Two such sites are already in function in Vancouver, but it will be a first for Quebec.

Quebec will release $12 million over three years to three community centres in Montreal: Spectre de rue, CACTUS and Dopamine. One part of the money will help the centres prepare the locations and fulfill all the requirements to be granted an exemption from the law on drugs by the federal government.

The other part will be used for the launching and running of the sites’ operations. One mobile unit will also be providing services in a few boroughs. No official date is set for the opening of the facilities, but Le Devoir mentioned that it could be as soon as March 2017.

The project is far from new. In fact, six years have already passed since the Director of Public Health started pushing for the opening of SIS in Montreal. In June 2015, Mayor Coderre had announced his plan to go forward with the facilities, with or without Ottawa’s approval.

At the time, the provincial government decided to lend a hand. According to Lucie Charlebois, Quebec’s Minister of Health and Healthy Living, “we are now at the final step” of the process.

She told Radio-Canada that the work on installations and the hiring of medical staff was already on track. “That means we’re advancing quickly.” She commented that she discussed the matter with her federal counterpart, Jane Philpott: “she is very receptive towards it, but we have to fit certain criteria, that is clear.” Charlebois stated that she believes that getting the federal approval will be a formality.

Sandhia Vadlamudy, the director of CACTUS, told FTB by phone that this formality requires a lot of paperwork, but no problematic modifications.

Last year, CACTUS distributed 610 000 clean syringes in an effort to prevent transmission of infection, which is around 65% of distributed materials on the island, including those distributed in CLSCs and drugstores. With their supervised injection site finally going forward, they will be able to “add one more tool to prevent infections and overdoses.”

Some have argued that the government would do better to focus on treating drug addiction or even on cracking down on drug crime instead of improving the conditions of drug use. Vadlamudy doesn’t think that promoting abstinence and prohibition is sufficient.

“This approach is more based on pragmatism; which is to say drugs exist and people take them.”

She argued that SIS are beneficial for more than just drug users, highlighting that, within four years of operation,  SIS start saving money for the healthcare system by preventing overdoses and health deterioration in users.

It will also help reduce the number of intoxicated people and of used needles left on the streets “and thus improve the quality of life of everyone in the community.”

Slowly breaking the taboo

According to the Director of Public Health, there are 4000 regular users of injectable drugs in Montreal. People who use injectable drugs are 59 times more like to be infected with HIV. An average of 70 people die of drug overdoses every year in Montreal.

In the eyes of many, SIS remain a marginal, controversial option for desperate cases, when they are not a silly progressive scheme. But their growing popularity around the world and the expanding stack of evidence in their favour are now hard to ignore.

The first North American facility, Insite, opened in Vancouver 13 years ago.  In 2008, federal health minister Tony Clement called it “a failure of public policy, indeed of ethical judgment.” Just last spring, Toronto’s Police Association expressed firm opposition to the idea of opening SIS in their city.

“Insite is not a model we want to see replicated,” association president Mike McCormack said, fearing that SIS would attract crime and loitering and thinks that government money would be better spent on treatment options.

Insite handles 600 injections daily. Not one person has died of an overdose within its walls. According to the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, there was a 35% decrease in overdose deaths in the area of forty blocks around the site. BC’s HIV and Hepatitis C infection rate went from the highest of the country to one of the lowest. More than thirty peer-reviewed papers were published about Insite’s beneficial impact.

Supervised rooms for drug consumption started popping up as a response to AIDS epidemics and the spike in overdoses in the eighties and nineties. There are now about 90 of them around the world.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction recently published a study in which they found overall that those sites increased safe and hygienic drug use and reduced risky behaviours. They also found that, contrary to Toronto’s Police Association’s concerns, there was no evidence that those sites increased drug related crime and violence in their vicinity.

*Featured image by Todd Huffman, WikiMedia Commons

Psymposia and the CSSDP are presenting Psychedelic Stories & 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day. It’s actually a two day gathering, which seeks to engender awareness about the medicinal properties of the Psilocybin Mushroom. By providing a space for sharing stories and for exploring and discussing new research on psychedelics the organizers hope to give a balanced view of what Psilocybin Mushrooms offer in terms of spirituality and healing. The itinerary looks fresh, educational and gully at the same time. I spoke with Gonzo Nieto, one of the curators of the event.

 

J: Tell me briefly about your curatorial aesthetic and what you hope to accomplish with the event…

G: With the event, we’re hoping to bring attention to the medicinal and spiritual effects and the healing potential of psilocybin mushrooms, as well as to address and push back against the stigma that surrounds the mushroom and its use.

 

J: And as far as aesthetic is concerned?

G: Our lineup for the 920 Psilocybin Mushroom Day is curated not only to educate about psilocybin mushrooms, but also to reflect the underlying message and meaning of the experience itself. The mushroom carries a message of wholeness, of movement toward our full human potential, so alongside presentations on psilocybin research we have a breathwork session, a yoga class, and a presentation on dream hacking.

 

W3rd, right!?! This event is gonna bang hard, I even heard Hamilton Morris from VICE might show up. The space is dope. The panels and talks are both academic and shamanistic. The vendors are talented af and, well, I’ll be there. Na’mean. Come through, get your photo taken, learn something. Hit me up, I’ll be outside during “Terrence McKenna Happy Hour” for sure…

Everyone knows the best parts of Spring are those sexy little flowing dresses that all the pretty girls wear. All that skin getting light shed on it for the first time in months. Long smooth legs glistening in the golden sun. Perfect arms, bulging cleavage, and sexy exposed shoulders causing car accidents.

Unless you have skin problems, then the horror of showing some skin can be very stressful and downright traumatic. Nobody wants to be the creepy flakey guy scratching and picking at his skin on the bus.

My name is Cat and I have chronic plaque psoriasis, it is an immune system related disease that is characterized by itchy red and scaly patches and dry crusty lesions on the body. It is not contagious.

My body grows skin cells up to 10 times faster than normal and cause the inflammation and plaque spots. Mine is moderate but still covering most of my body at the moment.

It is especially bad on my elbows, knees, behind my ears, on my butt, and scalp. It also effects my joints and is especially bad in the dry winter or when I’m stressed. It’s almost impossible to wear black without being covered in a snowstorm of skin flakes. My toe nails grow in thick and flakey. Yum, that’s attractive in a pair of cute sandals.

cat art skin
Cat McCarthy’s artwork about her skin

Why me? Why can’t I have smooth skin like all the other girls? Being scaly is just awful. For psoriasis sufferers social situations can be terrifying. It’s embarrassing to go swimming or even let your legs show on a hot day. Sex is often easier in the dark, less to explain.

You become tough when dealing with this skin imperfection. It makes life a little harder, but obviously not impossible. Much like acne and other skin diseases, psoriasis is socially taboo and not fully understood by the general population.

I have suffered from this most of my life. Even when it’s not terribly inflamed it’s still always there, taunting me. My grandmother had it, I always knew it was coming for me.

I am generally very comfortable in my skin. I love my fat rolls, every squishy bit of me is beautiful. I even don’t mind my stretch marks, I’ve earned them. But the lesions are really hard to deal with, especially when they take over intimate zones.

It’s hard to explain these nasty patches attacking your inner thighs and nipples. You make sure to keep your STD test results handy. It’s also terrible when it decides to go on your eyelids and face,there is no concealing that. You feel helpless and ugly.

The drugs on the market to help either contain harsh steroids or have grueling cancer causing side effects. Alcohol and smoking make it worse, small amounts of UV light make it better. Your body can react to treatment but usually becomes immune quickly and adapts, bringing you back to square one.

Even though I am more self conscious of my skin than any other part of me, I still choose to bare it all. I am a burlesque dancer, which means baring my skin for art. The bright lights can be unforgiving but most shows happen under the red glowing bar lights that make everyone look sexy.

Besides that, I regularly pose nude for figure drawing classes. Being 100% exposed in front of a group of students is so liberating. I have noticed that not one student has ever drawn my skin imperfections into their art. After close inspection they have added in my tattoos and got my hairstyle perfect but have not dealt with the skin issue.

I always wondered if they were just being nice. I think that beauty and art is more than skin deep. Nobody is perfect but everyone is absolutely flawless. I advocate feeling sexy no matter what and being proud of every nuance your body has.

cat psoriasis and no

Dermatologists can help some but usually don’t have the answers. I have found blogs from real people have helped me more. Diet, exercise , and getting enough sleep all have a positive effect on skin problems. More fruits and veggies, and whole grains help your immune system. Stay hydrated, use sun block, moisturize with natural coconut oil, relax in sea salt bath soaks, exfoliate, and get some vitamin D in your life. Self tanning lotions and some cover up can also help conceal the patches of yuck.

As far as fashion goes it is important to avoid dark, solid colors. Multicolored or patterned clothing helps to hide flakes. Soft cotton fabrics can feel more soothing than scratchier fabrics like wool or synthetics.

Do not hide behind your clothes, keep them loose and breathable. Sunshine helps. Tight fitting clothing can irritate your skin even more. I often opt for fishnets over bare legs, they offer some coverage without being too constricting.

It’s not your fault and your life and happiness does not need to suffer due to psoriasis. Take time to relax and de-stress, this will help every aspect of your life, including your skin.

The struggle is real. Be open and honest about your psoriasis. I am not ashamed of my body or my skin. I will not hide behind long sleeves and pants in the warm weather. I am proud of myself regardless of petty judgement.

I will take my clothes off shamelessly and make sure the world knows that having a skin disease does not make you less sexy. Don’t live in fear, it’s okay, we are in this together. Show that summer skin you sexy thing.