A drug user prepares drugs at theoverdose prevention site in Our Place in Victoria. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

B.C. drug users offered withdrawal medication similar to version yanked in 2014

Nearly 18,000 people were switched from methadone to Methadose in 2014.

Drug users who didn’t respond well to a reformulated methadone treatment introduced in British Columbia four years ago to ward off withdrawal symptoms have won their battle to get a medication equivalent to the original version.

Nearly 18,000 people were switched from methadone to Methadose in 2014, but a doctor who treats substance users in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver says the reformulated drug caused substance users to become ’dope sick’ in about 14 hours, instead of 24 hours.

Dr. Christy Sutherland says that led to withdrawal symptoms including pain, sweats and diarrhea and had many people seeking drugs such as heroin on the streets during an opioid crisis fuelled by potentially deadly fentanyl.

Sutherland says she has now switched many of her patients to Metadol-D, which has been shown to work as well as the original methadone.

The B.C. Centre on Substance Use has been educating doctors about that medication, which physicians must apply for on an “exceptional basis.”

Laura Shaver, who heads the British Columbia Association of People on Methadone, says the province discontinued the original treatment for marginalized people without consultation, which caused misery for drug users, including herself, who experienced withdrawal.

Related: Drug users say methadone switch contributed to B.C.’s opioid crisis

Related: Convicted offenders in B.C. 3x more likely to die without methadone: study

The Canadian Press

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