B.C. aims to improve addiction treatment

published on October 11, 2016 by Erin Ellis, Vancouver Sun in Edmonton Journal

As fentanyl overdoses continue to dominate headlines, the head of a newly announced B.C. Centre on Substance Use says finding the best addiction treatment in B.C. is notoriously difficult because there’s no single system to navigate “” and science-based addiction therapy is vastly underused in the province.

“The medical side of addiction treatment isn’t well established,” says Dr. Evan Wood, who was named interim head of the new research centre by Premier Christy Clark on Sept. 28.

Addicts and their families seeking help can face a bewildering range of options, says Wood, who is also leader of addiction services for Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health.

There are public and private recovery centres, each with their own admission rules and waiting lists. Add to that individual counselling or group programs offered throughout the province, many based on the 12-step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Wood’s new job is to help increase education about addiction throughout the health system.

“We haven’t had well-organized structures for training health-care providers in addiction care. (Until recently) we also haven’t had guidelines for the treatment of addiction disorders that would inform primary physicians about the best approaches to take,” he says.

VCH and Providence released guidelines for treating opioid addiction in 2015 and Wood says guidelines on alcohol is expected in 2017. According to the most recent available data released in 2006, alcohol and cigarettes created by far the biggest drain on Canada’s health-care system.

Rather than offer the same treatment to everyone, Wood says each substance requires a specific approach. To that end, an expanding education program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver run by addiction researcher Dr. Keith Ahamad has provided month-long training in the evolving field to 100 physicians and 13 year-long fellowships for doctors, nurses and social workers over the last academic year.

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