Organizers aim to reduce stigma of those seeking help

 TAYLOR BURT - Simcoe Reformer


A community session entitled Let's Talk About Opioids could have easily been renamed Let's Talk About Methadone.

 Methadone  was mentioned frequently at an opioid awareness event Thursday night at the Simcoe Public Library.

Three individuals of varying ages, who asked that their last names not be used, spoke about their experiences with drug addiction and how methadone helped them stay sober.

“It gave me the opportunity to go to treatment, to go to detox, to not withdraw,” said Taylor, who says he would not be here today without the Hope Pharmacy in Simcoe.

Kay, who now has a relationship with her family and a career, said, “Within 48 hours of taking suboxone, I didn't have a craving.” 

Suboxone is another drug used to treat opioid addiction.

The speakers have differing backgrounds and level of support systems, but all went through the methadone program and recommended it for other addicts.

There are two methadone clinics in downtown Simcoe, which have caused concern among some residents and businesspeople. Norfolk County council, earlier this year, unsuccessfully attempted to create an interim control bylaw placing a moratorium on any additional methadone clinics in the core.

It's no surprise, then, that a debate arose at Thursday's event on whether methadone is a treatment or is just replacing one drug with another.

“I've seen so many people come off of methadone and their lives fall apart. They go right back on it and say they will never go off it again,” said Ann Griffin, a doctor at the Water Street Clinic. The clinic is a drug addiction centre and the staff stand by methadone as a short-term or long-term treatment.

Allison Tario, a pharmacist at Roulston's Pharmacy, discussed why methadone is used as treatment for drug addiction. “Methadone is an opioid,” she said. “So, it's still the same as codeine, morphine and hydromorphone but it's a very long acting drug so, it doesn't cause the same withdrawal effects and it doesn't cause the same highs.”

Representatives of the Hope Pharmacy located in the Water Street Clinic explained that methadone not only stabilizes individuals and removes the ups and downs, but also helps them get their lives back on track.

Others think it's just prolonging a relapse of drug use and jail time.

“I've seen the same people over and over again in this cycle. What we need to do is build more counselling centres away from here for people,” said OPP Constable Rick Feijo, explaining why he believes methadone isn't the cure and asked for statistics on the treatment.

The information session was spearheaded by the Haldimand-Norfolk Public Health Unit and included other agencies as a way to shed light on opioids, how they are harmful and what others can do to help those that are addicted.

Examples of opioids include codeine, morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, buprenorphine, methadone and fentanyl.

Statistics from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network show 734 people in Ontario died of an opioid-related cause in 2015. Norfolk paramedics had 90 suspected overdose calls in 2016, and Haldimand had 46.

People at Thursday's event also spoke about naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid medication and is often used in overdose situations.

Tario said naloxone would not harm someone if they were given the drug but not suffering an overdose. In an emergency situation, the dose is the same for children and adults, making it easy for individuals to save lives.

People are still urged to call 911 and then proceed with naloxone, as it only lasts 30 to 45 minutes.

Naloxone kits are available at most pharmacies to those who are current opioid users, past users, a friend or family member of a user, part of a needle syringe program, or has been recently released from a correctional facility.

Tario's goal is to see naloxone spray in the hands of every individual and injections available at every school and community centre.

On May 4, 2017, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act became a law to provide some legal protection for those who need immediate medical attention from an overdose. The act protects anyone going through or witnessing an overdose as well as anyone who has breached parole, pretrial release, probation and possession.

The organizers of Thursday's session hope conversations reduce the stigma around drug use and addiction so people are able to get adequate help.