Hope expressed amid the opioid crisis
But ‘no silver bullets,’ Mac lecture told
It’s as easy as buying a beer.
But $40 worth of fentanyl can kill you, says Michelle, reciting a fact well known on Hamilton streets.
“Forty bucks to die,” said the 37year-old homeless woman.
Michelle — who, fearing blowback from suppliers, didn’t want her last name used — said she overdosed behind a local shelter about a month ago. “I was gone for 15 minutes.” She said it took five shots of naloxon, an anti-overdose drug, before she came to.
Michelle, who recounted how she got hooked on fentanyl patches while working as a nurse, said she’s been an opioid addict for seven years.
“No one deserves this life,” she said. “If we could stop, we just would.”
How to handle Canada’s opioid crisis was the subject of a lecture at McMaster University Medical Centre Thursday night.
Dr. James MacKillop, director of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research in Hamilton, said there “are no silver bullets.”
But he suggested lost in the negative narrative is the fact that many do recover from addiction, which is “gas in the tank” for those still struggling.
Debbie Bang called for a “holistic care” approach to treatment that includes pharmacists, doctors and family in the journey to recovery.
Bang, a St. Joseph’s Healthcare expert who created a nationally lauded five-week treatment program, noted how prominent a role trauma plays in addiction.
“It’s really hard to give up a substance if I’m having night terrors,” said Bang, who manages Womankind and Men’s Addiction Service Hamilton.
Dr. Harry Vedelago, who practises outpatient addiction medicine,
shared his own 18-year battle with opioid addiction and longterm recovery.
Vedelago expressed concern over a societal pessimism taking hold.
He chronicled how such a cloud succeeded addiction physicians in the United States of the late-1800s, leading to a view of addiction as a moral failing rather than a disease.
MacKillop explained the web of neurological processes that contribute to addiction and the lethal efficiency of high-power opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
Ontario has seen a “dramatic increase” in opioid-related deaths, he noted.
They include scientific advances increasing the potency of opioids, a growing reliance on medicine to treat pain, aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies, and the emergence of dangerous illicit products.
A “middle path” must be found to manage pain with opioids that recognizes their prescription as legitimate medical practice and their risks, MacKillop said.