Edmonton doctors form opioid response committee to address spiking overdoses

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Overdose deaths and inaction by the Alberta government have prompted a group of Edmonton physicians to form an opioid poisoning committee to address the growing crisis.

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The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association said the committee would advocate for people who use drugs, recommend short- and long-term strategies to reduce overdose deaths and raise public awareness.

Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Alberta, committee member Dr. Stan Houston said the drug poisoning crisis is not being treated with the same urgency as COVID-19, despite the similarities in death and impact on the community.


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He said on Thursday that resources and public information were geared towards addressing COVID-19, but the province supported harm reduction, aimed at preventing overdose deaths.

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“This discrepancy cannot be justified on grounds of justice or on grounds of public health and is the reason why we are here today. Alberta urgently needs to implement the measures that have been shown elsewhere that are life-saving.” are effective in rescuing,” Dr. Houston said.

“As the provincial government continues to mention, treatment for substance abuse disorders is an important part of the package, but you may not benefit from treatment until you are alive. And unless you have a reliable Have not built relationships with care providers.”

Under Premier Jason Kenney, a life-saving opioid dependence program and access to supervised drug-use sites have been restricted as the government focuses on recovery.

Eric Engler, press secretary to Alberta’s associate minister for mental health and addictions, dismissed claims that the government was not addressing the crisis appropriately.

“The government of Alberta is leading the nation in helping people access life-saving prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery resources,” Mr. Angler said in a statement. He listed some initiatives by the government, including spending on recovery communities and naloxone distribution.

With an average of four Albertans dying daily from accidental drug poisoning, the group said there is a need for leadership that is not influenced by politics or stigma.

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Intensive care physician Dr. Darren Markland said he is forced to explore his own biases when it comes to drug-related admissions.

He recalled the time two 17-year-old patients were admitted to his intensive care unit. One teen receiving treatment for alcohol poisoning received “automatic empathy,” while the other patient, who needed immediate care for a serious drug overdose, did not.

“His family took the same care of him. The tears were equally wet. The sadness was just as clear and yet there was a chill,” Dr Markland said during Thursday’s committee announcement.

“There was a wall between me and the nursing staff, because this poor family was almost ostracized by the same sympathy we extended to another 17-year-old.”

He added that his role within the committee is a “starting point” for realizing his own prejudices and preconceptions, so he can provide the best possible support for those who need care as a result of drug use. it occurs.

The number and severity of opioid poisoning is increasing in the Edmonton area, said emergency physician Dr. Jaspreet Khangra, who said it is affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.

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“I want to dispel the myth that there is a certain type of person who experiences opium poisoning (or) opium use disorders,” said Dr. Khangra. “Because of the stigma we are often not aware of the people it affects in our own lives until it is too late.”

He said indigenous communities are disproportionately affected.

Dr. Khangra said that for those who are using substances, a multitude of treatment strategies should be provided, including harm reduction support. He said that a lot of times, he has seen customers face social and systemic barriers to getting help.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Alberts who died as a result of overdose increased with over 1,300 deaths in 2020. Most of the fatalities involved opioids.

The committee said they would advocate for evidence-based information, government policy and health support to reduce the number of deaths and adverse outcomes for people using drugs.

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