More and more people in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario are looking for help with a prescription drug addiction.
Five years ago more than 200 people in the region called the province’s Drug and Alcohol Helpline for help with prescription painkillers.
That number has more than doubled — to almost 550 people.
Cam McTaggart, an intake worker at a Sudbury recovery home for men known as Rockhaven, said people need to be aware of how addictive drugs such as Oxycontin can be.
“It starts off as being affordable,” he said.
“It starts off as being portable. You can’t smell anything in their breath. And it’s a terrific, terrific high. But they will never capture that initial high again. And that is the chasing of the dragon.”
Numbers from the Ontario Drug and Alcohol Helpline show painkiller abuse is second only to problems with alcohol among those seeking help. And outreach workers say the demand goes well beyond the resources available to help.
“I could fill the Sudbury arena with people who probably need help. But the people who want help is quite reduced,” McTaggart said.
There is a constant waiting list at Rockhaven.
Methadone therapy is a treatment option offered to addicts.The drug is used to help people overcome a dependence on a range of opiates, including heroin.
Dr. Michael Franklyn, who works at one of the methadone clinics in Sudbury, said most of his patients have a problem with prescription pain pills.
“Other than Crystal Methamphetamine, opiates are the shortest road to hell,” Franklyn said.
“You can go from just experimenting at a party to hopelessly addicted within a month to three months.”
Franklyn said the wait list to start methadone therapy is three to four months. For an addiction that can destroy lives in far less time, Franklyn said the wait is far too long.
‘Methadone not the solution’
“The problem with this is it’s a life-threatening illness,” he added.
“[It’s] far more serious than diabetes, or stroke. It kills young people in the prime of their life. “
Franklyn noted Methadone is not the solution. If it is, it’s a tiny part of the solution.
“We have to look at the source of these drugs,” he said.
“Methadone was used for heroin addicts. We have no heroin addicts. We have virtually 100 percent prescription opiate addicts. And those are written by family doctors, or specialists, or stolen, or gotten by illegal gains. But that is virtually the only drug we are seeing people come in on.”
Finding a solution means education has to be front and centre “for the public, for physicians, for police,” Franklyn said.
“People have to be taught just how dangerous these drugs can be.”
Sudbury Ontario has a population that more than doubles Kings County. Below is data taken from a report on a pilot project Annapolis Valley Health completed in March of this year. As far as I know they are still currently implementing this program to date. Below is a description of the data collected and how the program worked :
In 2010, AVH Addiction Services, developed and implemented a six month Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Consultation Pilot Project with four diverse primary care sites including the Middleton Collaborative Practice in Middleton, a Kentville Family Practice comprised of five family physicians, the Red Door Youth Health and Support Centre in Kentville, and Mud Creek Medical Co-op in Wolfville. An Addiction Services clinical therapist was aligned with a specific primary site and provided half day coverage per week on-site for the purpose of consultation with staff, screening, brief intervention and referral of primary care patients/clients. The goal of the pilot project was for the partners (AVH Addiction Services and the primary care sites) to work collaboratively to build capacity for screening, brief intervention, referral, and consultation in the primary care setting.
This section describes the quantitative data collected for each scheduled appointment including cancelled/no show appointments (with the exception of Mud Creek Medical Co-op where data from cancelled/no show appointments was not available). For the purposes of reporting the data, the primary care sites will be abbreviated as follows: Middleton Collaborative Practice (MCP); Kentville Family Practice (KFP): The Red Door (RD) and Mud Creek Medical Co-op (MC).
Appointment and Client Description
- A total of 127 clients were booked throughout the course of the pilot project with 93 clients (73%) from MC; 15 (12%) from KFP; 12 (9.5%) from MCP; and 7 (5%) from RD.
- The gender breakdown for scheduled appointments varied across the four sites. Of the scheduled appointments with MCP patients, 42% (n=8) were male, 53% (n=10) female, and 5% (n=1) transsexual; for the KFP 81% (n=34) were male and 19% (n=8) female; RD had 9% (n=1) male and 91% (n=10) female; and finally, of the scheduled appointments with MC, 73% (n=72) were male and 27% (n=26) were female.
- The age range for scheduled appointments also varied across the four sites, with the average age of clients being 46 years at the MCP; 42 years at the KFP; 27 years at RD, and 36 years of age at MC. The average age overall was 38 years.
- Of all clients who scheduled appointments (including those that cancelled/did not show), 44% (n=54) were Registered Addiction Services clients, 49% (n=61) were not, and for 7% (n=9) of clients, no data was provided. Five percent 5% (n=6 of 127 clients) clients were referred to Addiction Services after being seen by the clinical therapist.
- Consultations between the clinical therapist and a member of the primary care team occurred 19 times at the MCP site, ranging in duration from 5 to 60 minutes, with an average duration of 22 minutes; 12 times at the RD site, ranging in duration from 1 to 40 minutes, with an average duration of 21 minutes; and 53 times at the MC site, ranging in duration from 5 to 10 minutes, with an average duration of 6 minutes. No consultations between the on-site clinical therapist and a member of the primary care team were reported for the KFP site.
- Eighty-three percent (n=106) of clients across all four sites attended only one appointment with the clinical therapist, 9% (n=11) attended two appointments, and 3% (n=4) attended three or more appointments. Five percent (n=6) of total clients booked were not seen by the clinical therapist.
Substance Use Issues
- Prescription drug use was the most frequently reported substance use issue (48%, n=87) of all clients who scheduled appointments. This was followed by alcohol (20%, n=36), nicotine (20%, n=36), and illicit drug use (12%, n=25). Only one client reported gambling, and two reported gambling of others, as an issue requiring consultation.
- Of all substance use issues reported by females, prescription drugs was most often reported (40%, n=26), followed by nicotine (35%, n=23), illicit drugs (14%, n=9), alcohol (8%, n=5) and finally, other substance use (3%, n=2). For males, prescription drugs was most often reported (48%, n=67), followed by alcohol (29%, n=40), illicit drugs (11%, n=16), and nicotine (12%, n=17).
- For those younger than 21 years of age, prescription drug use was the most often reported (32%, n=16), followed by alcohol (26%, n=5) and illicit drugs (26%, n=5). Prescription drugs were also the most frequently reported substance for 21-30 year olds (64%, n=34), 31-40 year olds (50%, n=27), 41-50 year olds (44%, n=19), and 51-60 year olds (30%, n=7). In the 61-70 year old age group, alcohol use was most often reported (92%, n=11), and for the one client over 70 years old, nicotine was reported as the substance used.
- For multiple substance use, illicit and prescription drugs were most often reported (33%, n=17), followed by nicotine and prescription drugs (27%, n=14). Illicit drugs and alcohol, illicit drugs and nicotine, and alcohol and prescription drugs were each reported 4% of the time for total scheduled appointments.
Our community of the Annapolis Valley has surpassed the popularity of prescription drugs in bigger cities such as Sudbury Ontario. We had more people reach out for help with prescription drug abuse in 6 months than alcohol and nicotine combined !! Why is our 21 day program geared towards alcoholics if the majority of the addicted population is suffering from prescription drug addiction?Methadone is only supposed to be a tool to use with the most severe addicts in their road to recovery. 50 methadone spots at AVH is not going to solve this problem . We need long-term treatment programs and the source of the of the pills needs to be investigated. Right back to the doctor’s prescription pads!!!