Life by legal injection: Canada offers addicts a place to legally shoot up

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- In an attempt to keep addicts from using hard drugs on Vancouver's streets, Canadian officials are offering a medically supervised place to inject narcotics.

InSite in downtown Vancouver, B.C. is the only legal drug injection health center in North America.

The supervised injection site opened its doors in 2003, and is aimed at decreasing the health, social and economic harms of the drug epidemic. Officials said that in 1997, Vancouver had the highest rate of HIV in the developed world.

One visitor to InSite - who said he preferred to be called Jim - told CNN News that the center has helped both addicts and the general population.

"Before this place was here, there's be just 30 people crowded in the alley doing it. And there were needles all over the place and a lot of ODs," Jim said.

InSite provides a booth, sterile needles, clean equipment and emergency assistance for users. The center costs tax-payers around $3 million a year.

Center officials said nearly 800 users fill their booths each day. Many of those that visit the clinic daily shoot up at InSite multiple times in a day, which has opponents saying the city is enabling users.

Some are calling for a treatment-based aproach rather than their current harm-reduction model to dealing with drug use.

The BC Ministry of Health Services provides operational funding for InSite through Vancouver Coastal Health.