A clinic that provides support and prescriptions for people suffering from opiate addiction and seeking recovery is open at Port Moody.
The clinic, located in Fraser Health's offices at 220 Brew St., has been operating for several weeks and is a critical step in addressing the region's opiate overdose crisis, officials said.
Dr. Sharon Vipler, chief of the Fraser Health Addictions Division, said the clinic is open daily during the week and that consultations or medical consultations are not needed to get help.
"The goal is to have the smallest barrier possible. They can appear, can call, have access to a customer support worker or a nurse depending on the clinic, and in most cases we will start therapy as soon as possible, "said Vipler. Tri-City News this week.
The idea of providing addiction therapy, such as suboxone or methadone, came from research that found people are dying of opiate overdose in their community, not on the streets somewhere far away, so providing treatment close to home seemed a logical approach to deal with the growing problem of opioid addiction.
Clients usually show up and meet with a doctor to get a prescription, which is then filled by a local pharmacy, with the patient taking the dose – an oral liquid for methadone and a suboxone pill – on the spot, under supervision.
In Port Moody, a doctor is available three days a week, but if the person in need of help wants a prescription for opiate agonist therapy (OAT) immediately, arrangements can be made for help at another clinic.
This week, Fraser Health announced that the clinics have also opened at White Rock and Langley, in addition to eight already operating at Fraser Health: Abbotsford, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Chilliwack, Mission and Surrey.
Since clinics opened last fall, people have been connected to treatment 1,300 times, according to a Fraser Health news release.
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Vipler said that the changes caused by OAT drugs are astounding.
"People stabilize quickly. It's the best part of my job. You see a different person at the end of the day. If that does not make you shiver, there is very little you can. "
People with opioid use disorder often use illicit drugs, such as heroin or fentanyl, or prescription opioid analgesics.
"When they start, they feel high, but very quickly you enter this withdrawal cycle. The part of the brain that wants to keep you safe, keeps you out of danger, really boosts this pattern of abuse. This feeling is so horrible. The brain says, "If I use opioids, I will not have that terrible and terrible feeling," explained Vipler.
She said that methadone and suboxone, which are known by the generic name of buprenorphine / naloxone, are in opioid receptors in the brain to block the withdrawal process and domesticate desires.
"That part of the brain can stay quiet and the other parts of the brain that are on standby can start working," Vipler said.
When people are stabilized with suboxone or methadone, they can begin to deal with other issues such as housing, work, and other elements of their life.
According to Fraser Health, over time, opiate agonist therapies allow a person to achieve more substance use treatment, and they are less inclined to reuse illicit substances. The risk of contracting HIV or fatal overdose is also reduced.
Noting that stigma is a problem that sometimes prevents people from seeking treatment, Vipler said it is important for the community to support such initiatives because they are necessary to reduce the harm caused by opiate abuse.
"We know people are dying in these communities, which means they are living in those communities and they are there now, I think a lot of stigma comes from lack of understanding."
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