Methadone and its use as treatment for people with late-stage addictions was discussed at the Prince Albert Art Centre, on Thursday morning. The River Bank Development Corporation organized the presentation as part of Homelessness Awareness Week.
Dwayne Cameron, director of Support Programs and Services, with the Co-operative Health Centre, lead the discussion with a presentation of the ways methadone can be used as part of a broader treatment program.
Cameron said that about 60 to 70 per cent of the people they work with are dealing with an unstable living environment such as homelessness or facing possible eviction.
“Cause let’s face it, they’re not the most reliable tenants.”
Methadone is an opiate and has been used to treat patients with drug addictions in Canada since the ’60s.
“When methadone first started in Canada, is seemed like the silver bullet,” Cameron said.
For years methadone has been the go-to drug choice for anyone dealing with an opiate addiction, Cameron said. The idea was ‘Get methadone, get better.’
“That’s a myth,” Cameron said.
While having a place to sleep is a good start, it doesn’t mean everything is going to be all right, unless they deal with the larger issues, he said.
“Methadone is only one piece of the recovery that can help you, but if you’re not using that to help you, then the other life stuff just keeps falling apart,” Cameron said.
He said it is important to help people as a whole, with a holistic approach.
“How are they doing in all areas of their life, not just in the medical aspect of addiction?” Cameron asked.
Things like their living situation, their nutrition, their mental health and their family can all affect a person’s ability to make a full recovery from drug abuse.
“Lots of these folks have mental health issues along side the addiction … we have two mental health therapists. We can connect them right there … All these are holistic pieces. Mental health, physical, nutritional health, all kinda surround them and connect them to the services, so that they get more of the whole package, as they’re looking at ‘what do I need to do with my whole life to get my life back on track?”
“How are they doing in all areas of their life, not just in the medical aspect of addiction?” Cameron asked. -
The Co-operative Health Centre receives funding from Prince Albert Parkland Health Region to provide methadone recovery programing with three addiction specialists and an administrative assistant.
The centre however can only handle so many clients. Their capacity is 300 clients, and they are full.
Currently anyone who could make use of their services must put their name on a waiting list until someone else is weaned off of methadone altogether. That can take years.
“It’s limited really. Physicians have to have another separate special licence to be able to prescribe methadone,” Cameron said.
Not to mention the co-ordinators and other holistic health specialists.
The centre has four physicians who have the -necessary for prescribing methadone.
“To our knowledge these are the only methadone licenced physicians in Prince Albert, which limits the amount of patients we can effectively provide primary health services to,” Cameron said.
“One of the difficulties we run into is few other physicians are interested in working with some of these chronic addiction issues. However, once they are stabilized, a general physician, with his methadone licence could easily co-ordinate with us to manage the maintenance part of recovery which would open up more needed space for those who are an appropriate fit for methadone assisted recovery.”