Hope ex­pressed amid the opi­oid cri­sis

But ‘no sil­ver bul­lets,’ Mac lec­ture told

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - TEVIAH MORO

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.

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