Experts sound alarm as B.C. deals with record drug overdose deaths

published on October 22, 2016 by Nick Eagland in The Vancouver Sun

An overhaul of B.C.’s “dysfunctional” addiction-treatment system must become top priority as drug users struggle to stay alive through an overdose crisis, recovery experts say.

In the first nine months of 2016, 555 people died of drug overdoses in the province, up 61 per cent over the same period last year, according to a B.C. Coroners Service report last week. Overdoses killed 56 people in September, up from 49 in August.

The highly toxic opioid fentanyl “” which dealers are cutting into street drugs of all kinds “” was detected in 61 per cent of these cases.

Dr. Keith Ahamad, a scientist with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said there’s a “huge disconnect” between the taxpayer-funded medical treatment system and the private-recovery facilities which evolved largely from peer-support systems.

“The reality is that a lot of (private-recovery facilities) don’t have the appropriate engagement with data and research, and we need to integrate those so we make sure we’re doing what’s best for patients,” he said. “It’s a very complicated system that is not patient-centred in any way. It needs to change.”

Ahamad laments a lack of regulation or standardization in treatment centres across B.C. But he believes the new Centre on Substance Use, headed by his colleague Dr. Evan Wood, will help solve this problem by bringing public and private systems together.

He believes this will provide evidence-based treatments and patient-centred care, so that a drug user with mental illness in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or “a lawyer who’s using drugs and surrounded by support systems” can both find the care they need “” immediately.

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