Pubdate: Thu, 19 Oct 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Yolande Cole
Page: A9


In more than 35 years as an emergency room physician, Dan Morhaim has
learned a lot about opioids.

The doctor, Maryland state legislator and faculty member at the John
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said he has had the
opportunity to talk to thousands of drug users while treating patients.

"It's given me tremendous insight into what goes on and that's
informed a lot of the policies that I've promoted," he said.

The physician was in Calgary on Wednesday to speak about that approach
as part of a University of Calgary School of Public Policy and O'Brien
Institute of Public Health event.

Morhaim advocates for harm reduction strategies to address what he
said needs to be treated as a public-health problem.

"We treat people with asthma who have relapses, I treat people with
diabetes who have relapses - that's part of health care," he said in a
phone interview in advance of the event.

"When you look at addiction as a disease, through that lens, then you
can begin to take some steps."

While he said law enforcement has a role, Morhaim wants to see access
to treatment 24 hours a day and 365 days a year for drug users,
including opioid replacement therapy, long-term treatment services and
recovery programs.

"Different treatments work for different people," he noted. "So they
need to be individually assessed."

Another key component of harm reduction, said Morhaim, is supervised
consumption facilities. It's something he has advocated for in his own
state, putting forward legislation to authorize such services. It
hasn't passed, but he plans to continue bringing the idea forward.

He noted the John Hopkins School of Public Policy did a study of
Vancouver's supervised injection facility, Insite, which found a
decrease in drug use, in discarded needles and in crime, and an
increase in people accessing treatment.

"You have to look at what works and the data here is really clear: it
doesn't work for everybody, but it works for enough people that it's
worth doing - and I think that experience in Vancouver ought to inform
our decisions elsewhere," he said.

Alberta announced Wednesday that Health Canada has approved four
locations proposed for supervised drug-consumption sites in Edmonton
and another in Lethbridge. A federal decision is expected on an
application for a supervised consumption site in Calgary by the end of
the month.

Morhaim noted that while opioid antidote naloxone "saves lives," the
method requires the presence of other people when someone is using.
Drug users typically take substances in small groups or by themselves,
he said.

"That's another reason safe-consumption facilities had zero overdose
deaths," he said.

"When I look at Alberta's number (of overdose deaths), you have a

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 12 this year, 315 Albertans died of
fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths.

Morhaim said the situation here is no different from what is happening
in communities across the United States.
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