Keeping the Door Open
Dialogues on Drug Use



Since 2000, Keeping the Door Open: Dialogues on Drug Use (KDO) has hosted 12 major events in Vancouver, Canada, to focus attention on and promote a public exchange of information and ideas on leading-edge strategies that address problematic substance use.

March/April 2008 - Rethinking Treatment: Recognising and Responding to the Spectrum of Substance Use

Research in British Columbia, Canada and around the world shows that if treatment is provided in an appropriate and integrated way it can be very effective, but often treatment is provided with enormous and unrealistic time pressures by inadequately trained staff and does not follow established best practices. Rethinking Treatment provided an overview of treatment principles from the macro global level to the micro municipal level, examined the spectrum of substance use and considered ethical and empirical responses to meet people’s needs.

Obstacles to achieving success in treating addictions include trying to apply a cookie-cutter approach when dealing with a complex illness with myriad contributing factors, establishing unrealistic timelines for treatment in publicly funded programs and insufficient funding both for actual treatment and needed research, said participants in the Rethinking Treatment symposium.  And while treatment options for people who are addicted to legal and illegal substances are sufficiently limited, for people with addiction and mental illness the situation is even more complex and can feel desperate, experts explained.

Rethinking Treatment dispelled the myth that only a single need must be addressed, but that a variety of treatment responses are required.

February 2008 - Beyond 2008

The 1998 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs called upon NGOs to work closely with governments in assessing the drug problem, identifying viable solutions and implementing appropriate policies and programs.  In preparation for the 1998-2008 review, 13 consultations with NGOs were organised in the nine regions of the world.
KDO hosted the North American consultation which took place in February 2008. KDO was the Regional Lead Organisation (RLO) in partnership with the Centre for Addictions Research of BC. 90 NGO representatives from Canada and the USA attended “Beyond 2008” in Vancouver BC. 
KDO participated in the culmination of this process at the UN in Vienna whereby the RLO’s from all nine regions of the world came together to report in on their regional consultations, and 300 representatives from all regions adopted by consensus a global non-government organisation declaration and resolutions on global drug policy.  

October 2007 - Can the Federal Government Close Insite: What are the Legal and Ethical Issues?

This forum presented ethical and legal perspectives that challenge the requirement for a federal exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act which would allow British Columbia to continue to provide evidence based healthcare to people who inject drugs.

May 2006 – Beyond Criminalization: Healthier Ways to Control Drugs
To coincide with the 17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm (IHRA), KDO hosted three dialogue evenings and a film festival free to the public highlighting international speakers featured at the IHRA conference and local and national representatives who brought a global perspective to post-prohibition options for drug control.

October 2005 – Beyond Prohibition: A Public Health Approach

This symposium fostered informed public and interdisciplinary dialogue on the changes a public health approach to a regulatory system for currently illegal drugs would bring. The event included the release of a paper by the Health Officers Council of British Columbia, A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada, and featured international and national experts to discuss the global context as many countries are now discussing post-prohibition options for drug control.

June 2005 – Lockdown: Drugs, Prison and Disease in Our Communities

This forum raised awareness about the harmful effects that substance use within correctional facilities may have on inmates and our communities. Speakers included Canada’s Correctional Investigator and a leading scientist with the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.The direct link between drug use in prisons and general public health and safety was illustrated, and alternative treatment and harm reduction approaches to protect inmates and communities explored.

September 2004 – Moving Forward: Improving Treatment for Heroin Addiction

This two-day conference and community round table enabled clinicians, researchers and methodone consumers to engage in dialogue on ways to improve methadone maintenance treatment in Canada. This public event examined best practices of heroin addiction treatment from international jurisdictions and how these innovative practices can be applied to the Canadian context.

May 2003 – Drug Policy Reform: The Global Context for Change

Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, founder and Executive Director of the the U.S.-based Drug Policy Alliance who Rolling Stone magazine called the ‘point man’ for drug policy reform, explored why global society is moving in the direction of viewing drug use first and foremost as a public health issue. Months before North America’s first legal supervised injection site opened in Vancouver, his presentation examined how this shift in perception is manifesting itself in Europe, Australia and North America.

October 2002 - Recovering from the War on Drugs: Seeking Solutions for Community Health and Safety

At this public forum, Sanho Tree, Fellow and Director, Institute for Policy Studies’ Drug Policy Project, Washington D.C., presented a compelling analysis of why the U.S. “war on drugs” has failed to promote community health and safety. Using coercion and punishment to stem the local and international drug supply is failing to eradicate both the social harms of problematic substance use and the illicit drug trade. In contrast, the Four Pillars approach of prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement has proven to be good for community health and safety, good for business and good for the economy.

September 2002 - Saving Money, Saving Lives: Exploring the Case for an Integrated Approach  to Vancouver’s Drug  Problems

This public event examined the economic burden of drug addiction and the need for balanced investment across the Four Pillars of prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction. Symposium speakers included: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chair, Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs; Ron Wolchuk, Office of the Auditor General of Canada; Patrick Basham, Senior Fellow, CATO Institute, Washington D.C and formerly with Canada’s Fraser Institute; Gary Johnson, who was then the Governor of New Mexico and led a bi-partisan political process in his state focused on pragmatic drug reform.

June 2001 - Safe Injection Sites: Opening the Legal Doors

This public symposium addressed the legal and ethical imperative to engage in harm reduction and provide safe consumption facilities in Vancouver and elsewhere in Canada. Key policy makers, community leaders and members of the public joined KDO in examining our existing legal framework in order to promote informed community and public discussion regarding safe injection site pilot projects. This included a review of provincial and federal legislation, international covenants signed by Canada and examples of legislative and administrative frameworks in other jurisdictions that have allowed for the successful operation of supervised injection facilities.

March 2000 - Keeping the Door Open: Health, Addictions and Social Justice

This four-day public symposium launched KDO as a community coalition in Vancouver and focused on the role of harm reduction in achieving health and social justice outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS, addictions and mental illness.  Participants from sectors as diverse as health, social services, law enforcement, corrections and education attended the event with over 2,000 people attending a community forum and an additional 800 participating in symposium-related events at a variety of venues.  Strong support from people who use drugs, families and friends of consumers, elected officials, media and the general public helped to make this symposium a powerful tool in mobilizing the community to advocate for changes in the current approach to addictions and health services.

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