Doctors must help remedy opioid crisis in Canada, CMA told

published on August 22, 2017 by Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press in CTV News

QUEBEC – Canada’s opioid epidemic isn’t a single crisis but a complex set of overlapping crises that will take multiple strategies to solve, a panel of experts told the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association on Tuesday.

“This is a crisis for Canada and every community is going to have to deal with it,” Dr. David Milne, a Calgary-based anesthetist told about 1,200 delegates attending the CMA meeting in Quebec City.

In B.C. alone, 967 people died of an opioid-related overdose last year and the province is on track for more than 1,500 such deaths in 2017, said Dr. Christy Sutherland, a family physician who treats patients in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“My patients don’t want to die and they live in daily fear of death,” she said. “When you use, each time because of the contaminated market of drugs in B.C., you’re worried that you’re going to die.”

While the ultimate goal may be to help those addicted to opioids to get off the drugs through treatment with the replacement medications methadone or Suboxone, Sutherland said the immediate focus is on preventing people dying of an overdose after unwittingly taking a street drug laced with fentanyl.

“So my job is to keep them safe,” said Sutherland, who is involved with several harm-reduction programs, including Vancouver’s supervised-consumption site INSITE.

“You want drug users to feel welcome whatever program you are creating and then you want to target marginalized populations who are not engaged with the health-care system and for whom treatment is not an immediate realistic option,” she said.

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