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A group living unit for drug addicts : an assessment of the narcotic drug addiction research and treatment units at Oakalla Prison Farm, 1956-1960. McCormick, Lindsay Laurier


Drug addiction has a special significance for the citizens of Vancouver, for in this city alone there is roughly one third of the nations drug addicts. This social disease is both widespread and threatening in that the number afflicted has increased steadily since the years of World War II. The thesis begins with a preliminary review of how drug addiction spread to Canada and to what extent it now exists. The effect of various drugs and the withdrawal process are described. An attempt is made to show the costs of addiction, and difficulties in policing the traffic in narcotics. There is some assessment of legislation governing the use of narcotic drugs. The central focus of the thesis is an evaluation of the group living units for treatment and rehabilitation of selected drug addicts within Oakalla Prison, known as the "Panabode units." Methods used in evaluating the Panabode programs were many and varied. One of the most helpful was frequent visits to Oakalla and actual participation in all phases of program. Data also came from reports and texts of various authorities; in the field, particularly from the findings of the Senate Committee on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs in Canada 1955, and those of the "Stevenson" Report, Drug Addiction in British Columbia, 1956. At Oakalla, discussions were held with the administration, with the staffs of both Panabode units, and with addicts themselves. Case files and all personal records were reviewed. Discussions were also held with various staff members from the Narcotic Addiction Foundation, (Vancouver,) with doctors, nurses and hospital personnel who are frequently in contact with some phase of addiction. Panabode programs are compared to other programs which exist in New York, and in Lexington, Kentucky. It is indicated that methods of treating drug addiction could be improved (a) by providing additional and better qualified staff; (b) by giving more individual attention to treatment; (c) by improving and increasing facilities and for a more self contained program. The importance of careful discharge follow-up is stressed. It is argued that the community is not attacking the problem of drug addiction on a broad enough front. Present treatment and rehabilitation facilities represent only a dim, half hearted response to a social illness that is now of alarming magnitude. Finally, legislative changes are suggested as a means of bringing addicts out into the open where they can be treated as sick people and not as criminals.

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