Opioid Agonist Therapy may not be for everyone struggling to get off painkillers.
It may not fix the opioid epidemic raging across B.C.
But it could help substantially.
OAT, a clinically proven treatment, is now available at Chilliwack General Hospital, for those wanting to curb the stranglehold of addiction to illicit heroin, Oxycontin, morphine, and other opioids.
“We know making changes is difficult,” states the new brochure for OAT. “If you are dependent on Opioids and have been unable to reduce or stop your use, one of the opiate substitution medications may be a good option.”
The ‘opioid agonist therapy’ or OAT for short, uses medications like Suboxone and methadone in a supervised, out-patient basis by a specialized team at CGH.
“We prefer Suboxone as a front-line treatment because it is safer with a proven efficacy,” said Dr. Nader Sharifi, Fraser Health’s division lead for addiction medicine.
The OAT clinic at CGH had a soft opening on Feb. 1 with one physician. It will complement existing services from Riverstone, like daytox and medical mobile detox.
“Another physician was added this week,” Dr. Sharifi said. A third will start at the clinic in late-April.
“The goal is to offer five-day service at the clinic to address patient need in the community,” he said.
The team at CGH will comprise physicians with specialized education in substance use and addictions, as well as a clinical support worker and a medical office assistant.
Patients who commit to an OAT treatment plan see improved overall health, stabilized lives, connection to health care and most importantly decreased drug use and reduced risk of overdose due to misuse.
Dr. Victoria Lee, chief medical officer for Fraser Health, told council at City Hall last fall when Chilliwack made the BC Coroners’ list of 14 cities with the highest number of overdose deaths province-wide, it was decided that an OAT clinic would be included in the expansion of treatment services that Fraser Health was rolling out region-wide.
Chilliwack’s new OAT clinic is now one of several established across the Lower Mainland, along with ones in Surrey, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Mission, and soon in New Westminister.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz is grateful.
“Drug addiction affects people from all walks of life in communities across the province, and council has been consistently advocating for additional supports for those wishing to confront opioid addiction,” Gaetz told The Progress. “We are grateful that Fraser Health has heard us and made the Opioid Agonist Therapy clinic a priority in Chilliwack.”
The mayor called the program “an important addition to the continuum of services in our community,” providing more opportunities for those with substance use issues to improve their health and gain stability in their lives.
Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, in tablet form, and acts in much the same way as methadone, a synthetic opioid that blocks opioid receptors, but produces even less of a high. Methadone and Suboxone are both classified in the opioid family of drugs used to manage opioid dependence.
To access the Opiate Agonist Therapy (OAT) Clinic call 604-703-6976 to book an intake appointment. Clinic is located at 45600 Menholm Road, Chilliwack.