Episode 2 – Dr. Alan Brookstone and Rai Read
Fighting the opioid epidemic in Terrace, BC: An interview with two addiction specialists
Overdose deaths are occurring at an alarming rate in BC and across Canada. Here, we speak with two addiction specialists to hear their thoughts on the crisis and how they’re helping the community of Terrace, BC. Transcript: Full episode 22:20 We apologize for the sound quality in this episode. Thank you for your patience as we learn and improve! [Soundclip] MICHELLE PRESTON: In recent months the extent of drug overdoses, particularly Fentanyl overdoses, has been a growing concern for many in BC and across Canada. Last November the Federal Government held a 2-day summit in Ottawa with provincial officials, doctors and families of victims of drug overdose, to discuss strategies that will help to address this problem nationwide. In BC, Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared the situation a health emergency several months ago and he says supervised consumption sites are a necessary and urgent part of the solution. To speak with us more about that and this issue in general, are Dr. Alan Brookstone, Addiction Specialist with the Alliance Clinic, a doctor-led outreach program for people struggling with addiction, and Rai Read, Integrated Team Lead with Northern Health. I’m Michelle Preston. This is Patient Safety Voices. [Soundclip] MICHELLE PRESTON: Thank you both for being here. DR. BROOKSTONE: Thank you very much. RAI READ: Thank you MICHELLE PRESTON: What do you think about the recent summit that was just held in Ottawa, I think our audience would be interested in your views in general, is the federal government doing the right thing by looking at this issue on a national scale? [1:16] Dr. BROOKSTONE: As an addiction physician and somebody who has been in family practice for many years before I came to doing work in addictions, I think the government has a role whenever one sees a crisis of the magnitude that we’re seeing right now with regard to the use of and abuse and overuse of opioids in Canada. I’m not certain exactly at what level the federal government should be involved, whether it’s providing guidance, resources and funding, or if it’s actually doing any work that actually impacts the underground delivery of care. The methadone program that we actually run and that is part of our outreach program in Terrace and in other communities is actually a federally funded program that’s administered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in BC as well as the licensing authorities in the other provinces. So, the federal government already plays some significant role in the management of addictions in the various provinces and certainly in the communities whether they be urban or suburban. So, I do think that the federal government has a role. It’s early days because we’ve just had some initial discussions, but I think we’ll see this evolve much more rapidly over the next six months to a year. RAI READ: No, I don’t know all of the details of the summit but I think what we’re seeing from a frontline perspective is there’s a lot more focus on tackling this epidemic with the take-home Naloxone program being rolled out earlier on this year. I think that we’re becoming more aware of it. I can’t really speak for the government and whether it’s the right thing, but we’re seeing from a frontline point-of-view that we’re being given more information and more guidelines around how to handle it. MICHELLE PRESTON: So you say there’s more focus. We’re certainly seeing a lot more coverage on this issue now particularly here in BC. We see efforts to raise awareness and fight any stigma that’s associated with addiction. A lot of that is ramping up in schools right now. So, do you have any thoughts on the misconceptions of addiction? What do you think is important for people to know about addiction and the people that need your help? [3:28] DR. BROOKSTONE: Once again, Michelle, I’ll jump in first here and then pass it over to Rai to discuss her thoughts on this. From my perspective addiction is an imminently treatable disease. It’s actually a very satisfying area in medicine as a practicing clinician to find individuals or help individuals who are suffering with disorders that affect their entire lives – their bio-psychosocial involvement with everyone around them – and see them actually get back on track, get jobs again, go back and become productive members of society. But, I think there are a couple of really important things from my perspective that they should be thinking of:
- When individuals start using drugs at a young age their brains essentially at that point in time go into hibernation. So, when we see people who are in addiction who are in their early 20s, or late 20s, sometimes into their 30s, and have been using drugs ever since they’ve been in their teens, there are parts of their brain that are still as immature as they were when they were 15 or 16 years old. They’ve got no sense about managing finances, they don’t know how to organize their lives, they don’t know how to cook food, they need a lot of skills in terms of lifestyle training and, in fact, in treating these individuals it can take years before you can actually get somebody to a point at which they can once again take responsibility for their lives, and it’s usually done in small incremental steps.