B.C.’s new protocols for opioid abuse treatment garner some criticism
published on February 7, 2017 by ANDREA WOO and JUSTIN GIOVANNETTI in The Globe and Mail
Drug users and harm-reduction advocates are calling British Columbia’s revamping of its clinical guidelines for treating opioid dependency a missed opportunity to expand heroin-assisted treatment – a controversial option has garnered support from the federal government amid the province’s worst overdose crisis on record.
The release of the province’s new guidelines on Tuesday – which take effect in June – came at the same time that health officials in Alberta announced a 25-per-cent increase in fentanyl-related deaths over the past year. New figures show that a record 343 people died of fentanyl-related overdoses in 2016, compared with 257 in 2015. (Alberta’s total illicit-drug overdoses for 2016 are not yet available.)
“Opioid overdoses and deaths are a public-health crisis in Alberta,” said Alberta associate Health Minister Brandy Payne. “Everyone in this room knows the devastating impact fentanyl and other opioids are having on families and communities.”
B.C.’s new guidelines, created by the recently formed B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), place an emphasis on providing a broad range of options tailored to individual needs. The comprehensive document will replace existing guidelines by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. on prescribing the opioid-replacement therapies methadone and Suboxone – the trade name for buprenorphine-naloxone – in June.
While the guidelines include a new tool – slow-release oral morphine – to the existing treatment options, some say they missed the opportunity to widen the availability of Supervised Injectable Opioid Assisted Treatment (siOAT).View the full article