More family doctors should be trained to help drug-addicted patients: B.C. study

Train family doctors to help addicts: study

VANCOUVER — A study by the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is calling for more doctors across Canada to be formally trained to diagnose and treat patients addicted to drugs.

Dr. Evan Wood, co-author of the study published in the current edition of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, said there’s a greater awareness that for many people, addiction is a chronic disease that must be treated with evidence-based medicine, the same as heart disease or any other condition.

“We’re just sort of learning and trying to unpack the mystery that some people will go into long-term recovery and never go back, whereas for other people it ends up being a fatal disease and they can never put it down. In many cases it’s because people haven’t accessed good treatment.”

Statistics from the BC Coroners Service show there were 371 drug overdose deaths between January and June of this year, about 60 per cent of which were tied to fentanyl, a powerful pain killer.

Wood said the prevalence of addiction means treatment must be integrated in the primary care setting where family doctors are trained to help patients who may need further care from specially trained physicians.

There are about 25 addiction-care providers in British Columbia based on their accreditation with the American Board of Addiction Medicine, the study said. There is no formal system of accreditation in Canada.

Wood, who is accredited through the American board, said one-year fellowship programs in addiction medicine are offered in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

“British Columbia is ahead in that our addiction medicine training program is the largest in North America,” Wood said.

He said 13 doctors took part this year in the fellowship program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where addictions training is also offered to nurses and social workers who visit detox centres, recovery programs and primary-care clinics where drugs are prescribed as part of addiction care.

“We’re really trying to look at what are the structural reasons that addiction care has really behind in terms of what’s available for patients and families and really trying to address some of those structural barriers head on.”

The need for specially trained health-care providers is even more dire in rural and remote areas, he said, adding opioid addiction needs to be treated in the primary-care setting in all areas because too many patients are ending up in emergency departments and leaving without referrals elsewhere for follow-up care.

Jennifer Woodside, whose 21-year-old son Dylan Bassler died in April 2014 from an overdose of counterfeit oxycontin laced with fentanyl, said family doctors may be the first health professionals to whom patients disclose their addictive behaviour so extra education that enables physicians to screen and manage people could benefit those who may not seek further help.

“They really haven’t been trained in that area,” said Woodside, who co-founded a group called Moms United and Mandated to Saving the lives of Drug Users, or mumsDU, to advocate for increased awareness about the dangers of drugs such as fentanyl.

Dr. Francine Lemire, executive director and CEO of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, said she supports the study’s recommendations to invest in addiction training at medical schools, along with continuing medical education for health professionals dealing with the issue.

“If we are serious about the extent and depth of this societal problem, early screening, diagnosis and treatment are key,” Lemire said in a statement.

Lemire said the college will recognize physicians who acquire enhanced skills with a certificate of added  competence and anticipated the review process to be completed over the next 12 to 18 months.

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Keremeos winery co-owned by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C.’s provincial health officer is part of the original ownership group of Clos du Soleil in Keremeos

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan, Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecasting strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy downpours in parts of the Interior

WorkSafe BC conducted 70 inspections in the Okanagan amid B.C.’s reopening plan

WorkSafe BC has conducted 100 inspections at restaurants across the province since May 19

EDITORIAL: Revisiting alcohol consumption

A proposal to allow alcohol consumption in some public spaces in Penticton deserves consideration

Chute Lake Lodge opens June 1, offering glamping, yurt, and ebike rentals

Escape into the wilderness and #lovelocalpenticton when Chute Lake Lodge reopens for the season

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

District offers safety tips after cougar spotted near Lake Country school

The animal was seen on a walking trail near Peter Greer Elementary Saturday morning

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Shuswap man reported missing by RCMP has been found unharmed

Salmon Arm resident apologizes for having caused anyone concern

Emergency crews rush youth to hospital after quadding accident in West Kelowna

West Kelowna Fire Rescue’s new off-road vehicle was used in the rescue

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

Most Read