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Canada plans to use vending machines to supply drug users with clean needles and pipes 24 hours a day

Concerned that the area’s drug abusers don’t currently have access to clean paraphernalia after hours when city health clinics are closed, officials in Ottawa, Canada have come up with a new plan to better distribute needles, pipes, and other equipment that addicts use to intake illicit substances: 24-hour vending machines. (RELATED: Read more bizarre news at

According to reports, Ottawa City Health wants to start placing all-access distribution machines throughout the metropolitan area that anyone can access at any time for a quick fix. These vending machines won’t contain any actual drugs, but they will be filled with clean paraphernalia — all for free — which the city claims will help curb the spread of disease.

Many health centers throughout the Ottawa area already provide free drug equipment to users and abusers during normal business hours. But after hours is when many addicts use their substances, and when many of them might be in need of a method to use them. If they don’t have clean access, the situation could end up snow-balling into a major public health crisis.

“In order to prevent transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, people need sterile supplies each time they inject drugs,” Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s deputy medical officer of health, told CTV News in Ottawa. “We just aren’t meeting the need.”

Many of the vending machines will be placed right outside the clinics that distribute during the day so that addicts know where to find them. Advocates say they will merely serve as an adjunct to the system that’s currently in place, helping to avert many of its pitfalls and problems.

“They really are just an extension of the existing harm reduction programs that are in operation in the city and have been for the last 20 years,” says Rob Boyd, director of Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, which currently provides clean needles and other drug paraphernalia for free to the local community.

Drug abuse requires rehabilitation, not jail time

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea, however. One local woman told CTV Ottawa that setting up vending machines when there are already clinics that people can access during the day could end up encouraging more people to do drugs. Their convenience and anonymity offer a unique type of appeal, she argues, serving as more of a lure than a deterrent.

Another woman of a similar mindset told the news outlet that the vending machines could even deter drug abusers from the health clinics themselves, which provide valuable counseling and other services designed to help people kick their drug habit.

Ottawa City Health claims this won’t be an issue because each vending machine will be uniquely equipped with a device requiring a special token in order to operate. This means that addicts will still need to visit one of the health centers during normal business hours in order to access the free needles and pipes.

“They would need to be accessing our services, our needle exchange services, our partner services and pick up a token,” Dr. Etches added in a statement.

The city of Ottawa has yet to begin installing the vending machines because it’s still trying to identify all the locations where they’ll go. The municipality is also still in talks with vending machine suppliers who will create the systems needed for the program to function as intended.

As to when Ottawans might starting seeing the vending machines in their neighborhoods, city officials say an initial rollout is expected within the next few months. As for their cost, Dr. Etches estimates that the total cost for all the machines will likely end up somewhere around $25,000.

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