The opioid crisis in B.C., including in hard-hit communities on Vancouver Island, has made headlines across the country.
Here in Nanaimo, dedicated individuals, groups and treatment centres such as the Edgewood Health Network are working to help those suffering from drug addiction and help families avoid the grief that comes with the death of a loved one to substance abuse.
Many people battling addiction to opiates – they can include friends, family, co-workers – have yet to reach out for help, says Dr. Mel Vincent, director of psychiatry at Edgewood. Opioid addiction can be a trap, he adds: a person’s life may be falling apart, the risk of accidental overdose is very real and they fear the withdrawal that comes with quitting drug use.
A 2018 B.C. Centre on Substance Use study found the top reasons given for starting recovery were to improve one’s quality of life, and improve their mental/emotional health. As such, there’s no reason to wait until someone “hits bottom” before entering treatment and recovery, Dr. Vincent says. “We need to raise the bottom rather than waiting for them to get into some desperate state.”
Care option package is broadening
The presence of deadly fentanyl has been a game-changer that required a change of strategy for Edgewood and others in the recovery field, Dr. Vincent says. The Network has worked hard to reach out to other groups and health-care professionals to create a broad, multi-disciplinary care package that incorporates best practices.
Edgewood’s approaches include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Therapy (DBT) and medication-assisted therapies such as naltrexone, Suboxone and methadone maintenance, in combination with the more traditional approaches such as the 12-step programs offered by Narcotics Anonymous and AA.
Whether you or your loved ones’ addiction to opioids involves heroin/fentanyl, or prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin or morphine – or developed through using street drugs or medications to numb chronic physical pain – Edgewood and its partners are addressing the causes and effects of each.
Many people taking action to get healthy
There are various opportunities and ways for you to ask for help. Many people in Nanaimo have joined community groups such as NA and AA, begun medication-assisted programs with methadone or Suboxone, frequented safe using sites and/or enrolled in treatment at Edgewood. The Network provides a range of options, from assessment and intensive programs for outpatients, to full inpatient residential treatment and aftercare programs.
“There is hope, despite the alarming number of deaths, but we have to work in a collaborative, co-operative way,” Dr. Vincent says. “There are very dedicated people in Nanaimo working with those in addiction. And many people are doing well in recovery, but we need the people who are still using to seek the help they need. There needs to be that availability of resources for them.”