Coordinated Addiction Treatment and Overdose
What is the relationship between coordinated addiction treatment and overdose? According to the chief medical officer of British Columbia in Vancouver, when drug addiction treatment relies in a series of coordinated efforts, the likelihood of an addict overdosing becomes reduced. Why is this and is this how the government is handling the problem of drug addiction?
It is important to understand that the structure of drug addiction treatment is a complex one. It is not enough to have a treatment program in place in hospitals or clinics, proper support should also be on hand after a patient returns to the community. For example, a patient that is going through a withdrawal process cannot be allowed to go back to the community without assuring that proper support is available or accessible. Why?
When there is lack of proper support, the likelihood of a patient going into overdose becomes heightened. In fact the potential for overdose can be as much as seven times higher when the patient goes into relapse. This happens because the body hast lost its tolerance for opioids faster resulting in increased risk for the patient.
There is a sentiment that the drug addiction treatment process is a broken system. For some health professionals, this statement would be accurate if there was a system in place. This means that there is a clearly defined and identified interlinked parts that function in relation to each other to comprise a whole.
With the 922 deaths in British Columbia associated with opioid use in 2016, these health professionals believe that such a system does not exist. The total number of deaths is actually higher than the initial 914 fatal overdoses reported. What should be done to address such a broken system?
The problem of drug addiction should be viewed as an emergency or something critical. Hence, public awareness is of paramount importance in order to put a stop to the critically rising number of overdose deaths. There is also a need to ensure that the communication lines between the implementing agencies concerned with public health emergencies remain open.
Specialists in addiction medicine believe that in order to correct such a perceived broken system, better coordination has to be in place. The coordination needs to be done from the start of the process in helping patients go through each stage of the addiction rehabilitation process. This means using a long-term addiction treatment approach with enhanced coordination.
What does this mean? The patients undergoing rehabilitation should be guided on what will be done and what to expect on the next phase of the recovery process. Maintaining realistic expectations can help patients go through the transition with as little problems as possible.
Funding undoubtedly will play a critical role in the later stages of a long-term program in order to ensure that proper support remains accessible. Removing the stigma surrounding addiction will also be helpful especially when people, professionals, and policy makers begin to understand that addiction is a chronic illness. It is wrong to think that just because you put a person into an addiction treatment program he will come out clean and better. The journey to reaching “cleanliness” is not only extremely long, but also very challenging.
If we are to take the data of British Columbia, we can see that the number of fatal overdoses in on the rise. From roughly 200 overdoses a year from 2003 to 2011, the number of deaths started to rise. So far, 2016 has been recorded as the deadliest to date with a rollercoaster ride where a decline was recorded from March to November before skyrocketing in December when a record 142 deaths associated with overdose was recorded.
The surge was attributed by the chief medical officer to carfentanil, which is a synthetic type of opioid that is 100 time the power of fentanyl. There were 4 out of 5 people succumbing to opioid overdose related deaths in 2016.
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