How can we change the public discussion on drug addiction?

To fight the opioid epidemic will take altering people’s thoughts around drug abuse

The way people feel about drug addiction has evolved significantly since the outbreak of the fentanyl crisis.

But the shift from viewing addiction as a moral problem to treating it like any other health issue is a work in progress, says Rae Samson, a substance abuse worker at Interior Health.

“I’m not sure if we are a generation away from making that shift, but a lot of work has been dedicated to that purpose in the past 20 years with tremendous gains. But there have been really rapid gains since the opioid crisis began,” Samson said.

“Over the past year, you have heard a very different conversation than you would have heard the year before that.”

Samson was responding to question from chair Doug Cochrane at the Interior Health board meeting on Tuesday in Kelowna, asking what the public can do to help change the way people view drug addiction.

Related: Study says family doctors should be trained to help drug-addicted patients

Samson said there is a two-pronged answer to Cochrane’s question. One aspect is from health care providers to break down barriers of communication surrounding drug addiction issues.

She said the impact goes beyond patients.

“Ourselves along with family members all feel the impact of people we know with drug addictions in one way or another. An important part of destigmatizing drug addiction is to bring those discussions out of the shadows, to discuss it in a forthright way like we would any other health issue.”

Samson said with the opioid crisis and the stakes being so high, more people are engaging in that conversation openly than in past years.

Related: Gambling and drug addicts share similar brain activity

The other aspect involves physicians willing to engage in addiction struggles their patients might be facing in a meaningful way.

“That can be a difficult conversation for a patient to have with their doctor, and the physician may be reluctant as well because they might not be sure where to guide their patient struggling with an addiction to seek help.”

Samson said IH is working with physicians to educate them about all of the care options available and work collaboratively to be a key part of that process.

She added IH has also started a pilot project in several communities across the region to provide drug analysis using a strip test to determine fentanyl content.

Samson said the service provides a variety of options for the individual such as to choose not use the substance or take appropriate precautions should an overdose occur.

The service is available at the mobile drug consumption services in Kelowna and Kamloops, and was set up at a test station for the Shambhala Music Festival near Nelson last summer.

“This is a huge change in thinking, moving away from the ‘Just say no to drugs’ concept because evidence has shown that to be highly ineffective to offering people choices and making informed decisions about their health care in the same way we would any other health care issue.”

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Smoke cancels Super League Penticton, organizers give pros a gift

Super League Penticton organizers decide to send all pro competitors to championship

Air support grounded as fires fill the skies with smoke

Heavy smoke throughout the region thwarted efforts of BC Wildfire Saturday, as… Continue reading

Evacuation alerts in place for south of Keremeos, Hedley and Princeton

More evacuation alerts - south of Keremeos - were issued Saturday afternoon… Continue reading

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Key to the SOEC 2017 winner grateful for experience

Petersen discusses what it’s like to win a year of free concerts at the SOEC

Work continues on Monashee Complex wildfires

Crews will be assisted by helicopters if flying conditions improve

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

Gottfriedsen Mountain wildfire continues to be held

Firefighters are working alongside the military to extinguish the wildfire near West Kelowna

Island swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights can be misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read