Detox not the answer for opioid crisis, says chief medical officer

Removing stigma and opening clinics offering free suboxone is the answer, says Dr. Victoria Lee

Detox for opioid addicts doesn’t work and can, in fact, be deadly, says Dr. Victoria Lee, Fraser Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer.

Instead, Lee suggests the answer is to provide methadone and suboxone at drop-in clinics within the community.

“We often think of treatment beds when we think of how to treat drug addiction. But detox treatment can increase the chance of overdose deaths when treating opioid addiction,” she said.

“Substance abuse affects all aspects of a person’s life and how they function.

“They are engrossed in the chaos of getting the next fix. If we remove that craving, [by providing methadone or suboxone] they can gain order back into their work and home life,” said Lee.

It means that people can be functioning members of society, but may have to be on suboxone their whole lives.

The problem with detox for opioid addicts is that too many suffer relapse and when they do, they can more easily overdose and die, she said.

“Because they have weaned off opioids, they then go cold turkey at the treatment centre. They tend to relapse and when they do, the dose they take is much stronger in their system.”

Fraser Health is pushing for a community based treatment approach with clinics offering suboxone prescribed by doctors at that clinic.

Lee said they have a clinic site available in Langley and doctors waiting to staff the clinic. They just need support from the community and municipal council.

Lee said Fraser Health wants to open a community clinic in Langley right now, but isn’t finding community support for it at the moment. She said she has doctors willing and able to work at the clinic to work with people addicted to opioids.

“People are worried about the kinds of people who hang around these clinics. I can appreciate where the stigma comes from, but from a physician’s point of view, we want to treat the disease, just like we would treat diabetes.

“People with type 2 diabetes often get it because of lifestyle choices of being unhealthy, but we don’t judge them in the same way we judge substance abuse.”

The latest numbers from the B.C. Coroner’s office are staggering and indicative of a crisis that is only getting worse. More than 1,100 drug overdose deaths took place from January to September this year in the province. That is a 147 per cent increase over the same period last year.

But Lee wants to emphasize that the majority of overdoses are happening inside homes, not on the streets.

“People are dying because of the level of stigma attached to drug addiction. Seventy per cent of the overdose deaths were at home.

“People are dying rather than ask for help. If we remove that stigma and start looking at this as a medical condition, it would save lives,” said Lee.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack loses the Keith Wilson Waver as Ron Hupper passes away

Hupper brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of people who traveled along Keith Wilson Road

Classic cars make a stop in Chilliwack during Brogan’s Ride Against Cancer

With the weather cooperating, more classics than expected hit the road for the fundraiser

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

PHOTOS: Cat owners in Chilliwack celebrate National Kitten Day

Chilliwack Progress readers share photos of their favourite felines on National Kitten Day

Child falls down Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, crews on scene

An 11-year-old boy fell over the falls about 25 to 30 feet and has suffered a head injury

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Most Read