A new addiction treatment centre for opioid addicts and chronic pain sufferers — the first of its kind in British Columbia — was opened on Thursday.
Opioid use is considered a widespread public health crisis in B.C., and many experts say the province is first in the country for high levels of addiction, death and overdose in the throes of the crisis. The B.C. opioid overdose death toll has already exceeded the 2,500 mark this year.
One survivor of a prolonged opioid addiction told a CBC news team that the centre has been a dream come true.
“It means our life has been valued, even though we’re not getting out alive,” said Jeff Schaub, 42, a former drug dealer. “It means that we can have some measure of security to give up on life, but life is not going to be taken from us.”
Schaub lives on the medical campus at the United HealthCare B.C. centre, and has been a patient there for seven years.
The centre is located on a campus in Surrey, southwest of Vancouver, that has a 750-bed psychiatric and rehabilitation facility. The 120 beds available to addicts and chronic pain sufferers have been added in recent months.
The former president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada said in a recent opinion piece that there is an increasing trend for doctors to prescribe drugs, such as fentanyl, for non-medical reasons to overcome chronic pain.
“By normalizing medications for the treatment of chronic pain without considering the potential risks associated with long-term use, we have created a system which offers the advantage of increasing access to a widely used drug, while doing little to properly assess the risks of its use,” wrote Gregory Taylor, who retired last October.
The centre’s director, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, said the focus is on providing long-term care and treatment services to people with severe addictions and serious pain. The only treatment centre of its kind in the region will be able to provide rehabilitative care for up to two years for people enrolled in its addiction program.
Singh said there are only about 60 similar addiction treatment programs across Canada.
“We are trying to make it a model of care for all Canadians.”
In B.C., the opioid overdose death toll has already exceeded the 2,500 mark this year.