Pubdate: Fri, 17 Feb 2017
Source: Metro (Calgary, CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Elizabeth Cameron
Page: 12


Advocates call for increased access to new drug treatment I don't need
to stick needles in my arms anymore... I can work a normal job.

A new therapy is the most effective intervention to treat opioid use
disorder and other associated harms, according a recent progress
report from the office of Alberta's chief medical officer of health.

Opioid replacement therapy (ORT) prevents the agonizing symptoms of
opiate withdrawal - allowing people to get clean and get their lives

"If I hadn't gotten on methadone, I'd probably be dead," said Chelsea
Burnham, a 25-year-old mental health and addictions outreach worker.

Everyday for the past five years, she has taken methadone - a
synthetic, long-lasting opioid without the 'high' that's commonly used
in ORT.

Burnham said the treatment has made her feel "real"

"I don't need to stick needles in my arms anymore … I can work a
normal job or hangout with my friends without worrying about my next
shot," she said.

It's not easy to access ORT - high demand and a limited resources have
created long wait-lists at clinics that provide the treatment. That
creates increased risk for users, according to Burnham, who said
people would only seek out ORT if they want to decrease their usage or
get clean.

"They're having to substitute with street drugs (while they wait), and
right now we shouldn't be risking that," she said.

"If they're seeking it out, they probably need it."

Dr. Kim Kelly, a physician who works at the AHS Opioid Dependency
Program in Edmonton, said ORT makes a night-and-day difference in her
patient's lives.

"What we've experienced is that patients are staying for treatment
longer because they were able to manage their symptoms (of
withdrawal)," Dr. Kelly said.

She's worked in the field for 20 years and knows ORT is

"It's been astounding - we feel like we're able to really help people
with an opioid addiction," she said.

Burnham wants the provincial government to direct more resources to
providing ORT.

"We need to get through all the red tape and politics and just get
this done," Burnham said.

"People are dying - there isn't time to sit and have a bunch of
meetings about naloxone kits."
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