Vancouver program trains doctors in addictions treatment

published on August 17, 2015 by Michael Mui in 24 Hours (Vancouver)

A Vancouver program at St. Paul’s aims to train doctors who may not be familiar with drug addiction to recognize the signs and target harm reduction strategies like service providers in the Downtown Eastside already do.

Dr. Annabel Mead is the director of the Goldcorp Addiction Medicine Program, a $3-million program funded by a local gold company, that trains up to eight health practioners each year on drug addiction.

Over the course of a year, the trainees – up to six doctors and two nurses – mix classroom sessions, study periods where the latest addictions research is reviewed, role-playing demonstrations and hands-on training, and field trips. All participants’ salaries are paid by the program for the duration of their study.

Mead said most health practitioners, unless they chose the addictions field, have very little formal training.

“Medical students might get a couple of weeks in their whole training undergrad,” she said.

“They understand least about treating addiction to stimulants such as cocaine or crystal meth, that remains a root challenge, since we don’t have good medical options to treat those conditions,” though many have some knowledge of alcohol, tobacco and opiate addiction because of the availability of treatment medications.

Training currently focuses on three medical fields – those in internal medicine, who are taught to see signs of drug-caused infection, those in family practice, taught to interview and ask the right questions of teens and parents, and those in psychiatry, taught to screen and help patients manage their addictions.

View the full article