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BCMHSUS Contributes to Support and Treatment of Opioid Addiction

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November 15-21, 2015 is National Addictions Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “Addiction Matters,” drawing attention to substance abuse as a chronic health issue that impacts individuals, families and communities across Canada. BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services (BCMHSUS) is sharing stories of the amazing people who provide excellent care and support to clients, and growing awareness of BCMHSUS prevention, treatment and recovery programs and services.

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in people overdosing from opioid use across BC; recent data reports there are 4.79 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people in BC. In fact, Metro Vancouver has the highest drug overdose rate in the province.

This week (Nov. 15-21) is National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW), and the theme is “Addiction Matters,” drawing attention to substance abuse as a chronic health issue that impacts individuals, families and communities across Canada.  BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services (BCMHSUS) is spreading awareness of this growing problem in BC and across Canada, and exploring solutions to save lives, and support those suffering with addictions find their pathway to recovery.

Opioids are drugs (can be natural or synthetic) that can relieve pain, and affect other necessary body functions such as breathing. An overdose from using an opioid can cause unconsciousness, slowing of the heart rate, seizures/muscle spasms, blue looking skin, fingernails and lips among other symptoms. If a person takes too much of an opioid it can decrease the breathing rate so much so that death can result.

So what is BCMHSUS doing to address this issue? BCMHSUS has a variety of programs and services that provide treatment and education to help those living with addictions and/or mental health issues across BC. BCMHSUS is providing education to patients, families, and healthcare workers that help to decrease opioid overdose/overdose death rates.

The Heartwood Centre for Women, which was the first program of its kind in Canada when it opened its doors four years ago, provides a holistic approach to treating and caring for women who are living with addiction/mental health issues. Recent studies have shown that the source of addiction for most women addicted to opioids starts with an addiction to prescription painkillers. The Heartwood Centre provides opioid substitution therapy for those clients who are opioid users, along with detox/therapeutic programming.   

“The Heartwood Centre for Women provides holistic addiction care to women from across the province in a multi-disciplinary residential setting,” said Dr. Annabel Mead of the Heartwood Centre for Women. “Best practice in opioid addiction treatment is assured, including the use of opioid substitution therapy (methadone and buprenorphine), detoxification and a full range of individual and group therapies. There is a special focus on all aspects of pain management and mental wellness, all delivered in a trauma-informed setting.”

Another step BCMHSUS is taking is with the opioid antidote, naloxone. Naloxone can reverse opioid overdoses, and evidence has shown that use of naloxone has reduced opioid overdose deaths. In October 2015, the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (BCMHA) implemented the Take Home Naloxone (THN) program.

In BC, the THN officially started in 2012, and is run through the BCCDC and BC Harm Reduction Services and Strategies (BCHSS). The program provides training for opioid users, friends, family, and service providers to recognizing when an overdose is happening, learn prevention techniques and practice using the kits. The THN programs provide naloxone to people who use opioids (legally prescribed or illegally obtained) and are at risk of an overdose. It is not intended to replace emergency care or minimize the importance of calling 911. However, because 85 per cent of overdoses happen within the company of others, having naloxone offers the opportunity to save a life and reduce harm related to overdose while waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

To learn more about the THN program, go to Towards the Heart, and click “Find a Harm Reduction Site”.
SOURCE: BCMHSUS Contributes to Support and Treatment of Opioid Addiction ( )
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