Dr. Nathan Toh, a family doctor resident in Chilliwack, speaks to an audience at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre about the basics of addiction, in relation to the current opioid addiction crisis. Jessica Peters/ The Progress

Only nine per cent of Chilliwack opioid deaths were homeless people

Majority of drug deaths happen to people who have homes and regular jobs

Homeless people may seem like the front line of the opioid crisis in Chilliwack but there’s a hidden population driving up the number of local fatalities.

Despite the visible side effects of drug use on the streets, only nine per cent of the 35 fatal overdoses last year in Chilliwack involved so-called street people.

That was the biggest myth about opioids that doctors were trying to bust at a community talk Tuesday night, at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

Dr. Marc Greidanus said the majority of people who died from opioid overdoses were in homes that were owned or rented, at a whopping 71 per cent. The rest of the overdoses, about 20 per cent, were people who had some sort of supportive shelter, including group homes.

Further to that, he said, of those who died last year, 44 per cent had a job.

One of the tasks of local health professionals is to reduce the social stigma connected to opioid use. The more people understand about addiction, the easier it is for addicts to access and accept help. And over time, they say, that will lead to fewer people dying from overdose.

Taking part in Tuesday’s talk, which was part of the Mini Med School sessions hosted by the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice, was one way of the ways they’re trying to smash social stigma about opioids and addictions.

Dr. Nathan Toh, a family medicine resident in Chilliwack, explained how addiction is formed from different kinds of trauma. That includes single incident trauma, complex repetitive trauma (such as continued sexual abuse), development trauma (including child abuse and neglect), and historical trauma, which is when an entire group of people are subjected to abuse as in the case of residential schools.

Addiction can also be caused when physical pain is poorly managed, he explained. While Toh is a resident doctor with fresh training, Greidanus recalled being told in training that if opioids didn’t work “double the dose.” And when that didn’t work, “double the dose” again. Years later, he said, they realized the mistake they’ve made, and doctors swung hard the other way, not prescribing opioids at all.

Now, they are trying to treat pain from somewhere in the middle. If they don’t prescribe pain meds to those who truly need them, he said, “they’ll just go down the street and get something for $10.”

So now they’re trying a whole menu of treatment types, in conjunction with each other, to get patients back to sobriety and dealing with both trauma and pain in a healthier way. But once addiction starts, Toh said, the onus is on the user to get clean.

“Treatment doesn’t really work unless we have a comprehensive approach,” he said. “And the person dealing with the addiction is the most important person, to drive their own recovery.”

Fentanyl isn’t a drug that will go away, Greidanus added. Heroin, only a slightly altered form of the medically used morphine, is a complicated and expensive drug to make. Fentanyl on the other hand, can be made in a kitchen. And the people making it aren’t really worrying about the lifespan of their customers.

Cpl. Deanna Hawes of the RCMP’s drug division was also on hand for Tuesday’s talk.

She said the drug is given a few spins in table top mixers with cheap filler, and then pressed into tablets labelled Xanax, mixed with heroin, and other drugs. This creates “hot spots” in a dose, which causes drug users to over medicate. And often, people aren’t even aware there is fentanyl in their drug of choice.

“Pretty much any drug you will find on the street in Chilliwack will have fentanyl in it now,” she said. Someone in the audience asked her to clarify if cannabis has also been found with fentanyl, and Hawes said it has. The safest way to purchase is now through the government, she said.

A lot of the evening focused on questions on how exactly to adminster naloxone to someone who may be overdosing. Dr. Arden Barry, a pharmacist with the Primary Care Clinic said practice is important. They had someone overdose recently just outside the doors of their clinic, and he was the one to have to load the needle with the naloxone from their kit.

“I noticed that even my hands were shaking,” he said, from the adrenaline of the situation. Everyone on the panel urged people to get informed about administering naloxone, especially if they are going to be using drugs recreationally, even once.

“We have a poisoned drug supply,” said Liz Miller, a local public health nurse. “Just like you choose a designated driver, you have to say, ‘If we are going to be doing this, what is the safest way? Because nobody has to die.”

To find out more about naloxone, visit a pharmacy and ask for a demonstration. The next Mini Med discussion is Tuesday, March 12 at the NLC and focuses on palliative care. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the talk beginning at 7 p.m.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Dr. Mark Greidanus informed the audience at a Mini Med talk on March 5 about the local resources available for addictions, and illustrated from his ER experiences what medical professionals in Chilliwack are dealing with. Jessica Peters/ The Progress

Naloxone kits last for two years, and can be difficult to use. People are encouraged to practice loading a needle prior to needing to use one in an emergency situation. Naloxone kits can be purchased at drug stores throughout Chilliwack, and hold three doses. Jessica Peters/ The Progress

Just Posted

UPDATE: Mother of man missing south of Chilliwack pleads for help finding him

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

Lofty plans for Chilliwack school district revealed

Chilliwack school district draws up plan to add 2,900 student seats in five years

A+ work: Princeton RCMP find student’s homework stolen from Chilliwack

The backpack was stolen from a vehicle in Chilliwack earlier this week

Man wants guilty plea revoked in 2012 collision in Abbotsford that killed Chilliwack woman

Michael Larocque was charged in relation to crash that killed Eileen Kleinfelder

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

Burnaby facility to dispose of 1,500 tonnes of Canada’s trash from Philippines

All 103 containers will be disposed of properly within Canada before the end of the summer

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

High-risk sex offender released into Surrey

Earon Wayne Giles, a Newton “tag-team rapist,” was released from prison Friday and is now living in Surrey

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

UPDATE: Vancouver man dies after crash between motorcycle, transport truck

Police believe speed was a factor in Thursday collision

Trial slated to start Monday for accused killer of Abbotsford cop

Oscar Arfmann faces first-degree murder for death of Const. John Davidson

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Most Read