Just because alcohol is legal doesn’t mean it should be disqualified from harm-reduction programs, says a University of Victoria psychologist.
“Alcohol can kill you in more ways than heroin can,” said Tim Stockwell, director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.
“But somehow it doesn’t deserve the same level of respect in harm-reduction treatments as other substances.”
Stockwell, a psychology professor, and Bernie Pauly, associate professor in the UVic department of nursing, edited a special issue of the international, peer-reviewed Drug and Alcohol Review that includes four papers from the Canadian Managed Alcohol Program Study.
The study examined programs in which participants are provided daily, regular and measured doses of alcohol to cope with their addictions. The doses, usually equivalent to one standard drink, are usually offered at intervals, such as every hour or 90 minutes. Housing, food and other supports are typically provided, as well.
Stockwell said managed-alcohol programs are a radical idea being pursued seriously only in Canada. One of the first arose 25 years ago after three people froze to death in Toronto. They had been denied shelter spaces because they were drunk.
Data for the papers were collected from about 380 people in 13 programs across Canada, including two in the Lower Mainland.
Susan Alexman, director of programs for PHS Community Services Society in Vancouver, said her agency is offering two managed-alcohol programs, one as part of a subsidized-housing project.
The other PHS service is community-based. Clients are expected to show up at the PHS centre for drinks, in some cases getting them in exchange for things such as non-beverage alcohol, which includes mouthwash and rubbing alcohol.
Don Evans, executive director of Our Place in Victoria, said his group has considered managed alcohol in the past but gave up because it didn’t have the space or resources.