How can we change the public discussion on drug addiction?

To fight the opioid epidemic will take altering people’s thoughts around drug abuse

The way people feel about drug addiction has evolved significantly since the outbreak of the fentanyl crisis.

But the shift from viewing addiction as a moral problem to treating it like any other health issue is a work in progress, says Rae Samson, a substance abuse worker at Interior Health.

“I’m not sure if we are a generation away from making that shift, but a lot of work has been dedicated to that purpose in the past 20 years with tremendous gains. But there have been really rapid gains since the opioid crisis began,” Samson said.

“Over the past year, you have heard a very different conversation than you would have heard the year before that.”

Samson was responding to question from chair Doug Cochrane at the Interior Health board meeting on Tuesday in Kelowna, asking what the public can do to help change the way people view drug addiction.

Related: Study says family doctors should be trained to help drug-addicted patients

Samson said there is a two-pronged answer to Cochrane’s question. One aspect is from health care providers to break down barriers of communication surrounding drug addiction issues.

She said the impact goes beyond patients.

“Ourselves along with family members all feel the impact of people we know with drug addictions in one way or another. An important part of destigmatizing drug addiction is to bring those discussions out of the shadows, to discuss it in a forthright way like we would any other health issue.”

Samson said with the opioid crisis and the stakes being so high, more people are engaging in that conversation openly than in past years.

Related: Gambling and drug addicts share similar brain activity

The other aspect involves physicians willing to engage in addiction struggles their patients might be facing in a meaningful way.

“That can be a difficult conversation for a patient to have with their doctor, and the physician may be reluctant as well because they might not be sure where to guide their patient struggling with an addiction to seek help.”

Samson said IH is working with physicians to educate them about all of the care options available and work collaboratively to be a key part of that process.

She added IH has also started a pilot project in several communities across the region to provide drug analysis using a strip test to determine fentanyl content.

Samson said the service provides a variety of options for the individual such as to choose not use the substance or take appropriate precautions should an overdose occur.

The service is available at the mobile drug consumption services in Kelowna and Kamloops, and was set up at a test station for the Shambhala Music Festival near Nelson last summer.

“This is a huge change in thinking, moving away from the ‘Just say no to drugs’ concept because evidence has shown that to be highly ineffective to offering people choices and making informed decisions about their health care in the same way we would any other health care issue.”

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Heavy snowfall for Coquihalla

Kelowna - Snowfall is expected to continue on the highway until Sunday

Penticton rally set for Indigenous homicide victims

Rally in support of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine set for Monday at noon at the courthouse

Snow impacting flights at Kelowna airport

Tough conditions have delayed several flights and cancelled others at the regional airport

How the teams compare

Summerland Steam, Kelowna Chiefs to face each other in Junior B playoffs

Team qualifies for provincials

The Summerland Middle School boys Grade 8 basketball team won the South Okanagan Zone Playoffs

President praises nearly 1,800 volunteers at B.C. Games

Ashley Wadhwani sits down with the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Winter Games President Niki Remesz

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

The way government learn someone has died is getting a digital overhaul

Governments in Canada turned to private consultants 2 years ago to offer blueprint

Bobsleigh team misses Olympic medal finish

Canadian team finishes four-man event 0.84 seconds behind first place, 0.31 seconds from podium

A most delicious competition at the Mall at Piccadilly

Salmon Arm hosts the Best of the Shuswap Pie Baking Contest

B.C. Games: Athletes talk Team Canada at PyeongChang 2018

From Andi Naudie to Evan McEachran there’s an Olympian for every athlete to look up to

Snowboarders sliding into fresh territory at B.C. Games

Athletes hit the slopes for first appearance as an event at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Looking back at the 1979 B.C. Games: Good memories, even better jackets

39 years later, Kamloops is hosting the Winter Games again, with some volunteers returning

OLYMPICS 101: Oldest and youngest Canadians to reach the podium

This year, Canada sent its most athletes in Winter Games history, here’s a look at record breakers

Most Read