Hope on the horizon

published on November 23, 2017 in The University of British Columbia

As a child, the image of flames engulfing her home — of her mother not being able to escape the thick, carbon smoke — tormented Andrea for years.

But the fire, visited over and over in her mind, was one that had never taken place.

“As a kid, I was always really anxious,” says Andrea. “I was worried about leaving the house, about a fire starting, about something happening to my mother.”

As a teenager, Andrea used substances to muffle her world, turned to self-harm to quiet the intensity of her emotions, and binged and purged to cope with her reality. She walked alone, she says, for a long time.

“I didn’t want anyone to know what I was thinking so I just focused on supressing my thoughts and feelings,” recalls Andrea. “But the older I got, the more severe my anxiety and depression became. Now I see that I was just in desperate need of help.”

Loss is not something new for Evan Wood.

Over the years, as an addiction medicine physician, he’s witnessed countless individuals lose their jobs, their homes, their families and — in the most extreme cases — their lives.

The hardest days, he says, are spent listening to parents recount stories of the children they have lost to an overdose.

“In this line of business, there is no shortage of challenges, but also no shortage of motivators,” he says.

Dr. Wood, a professor of medicine and Canada Research Chair in Inner City Medicine at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine is at the helm of the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) — a newly-created provincial network of clinicians, educators and researchers strengthening the overall system of care for people struggling with problematic substance use and addiction.

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