Experts urge a physician-assisted solution to the opioid crisis

published on August 25, 2017 by ANDRÉ PICARD in The Globe and Mail

Stemming the surge in opioid-related deaths is not simple because it requires tackling a series of overlapping crises. But what is inarguable is that physicians have a central role to play in everything from smarter prescribing of pain drugs to caring for people with addictions living on the streets.

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The death rate of drug users has soared because they often do not know what they’re injecting. “It almost makes you nostalgic for the days of heroin,” Christy Sutherland, medical director of the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver.

Canada had at least 2,458 overdose deaths last year, more than 900 of them in B.C. alone. Those numbers could double in 2017.

Dr. Sutherland pleaded with the 1,200 physicians at the CMA meeting to embrace harm reduction because the evidence shows it saves lives.

“Rather than promoting abstinence, we have to work on keeping people alive,” she said.

That means providing safe places to consume illegal drugs, readily available treatment and giving kindness to all patients regardless of their station in life.

“There are a lot of myths about harm reduction,” Dr. Sutherland said. “Having the option of safety does not encourage drug use, it saves lives.”

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