When are people going to listen—how loud do the cries need to be before something is done—or do we have to wait until they become screams? For the past few weeks every newspaper in the country has been reporting on the crisis regarding the removal of Oxycontin. Most of the concentration has been on northern Ontario and First Nation communities. From October 2006 to January 2007 I crossed the country doing workshops on Cocaine, Crystal Meth, and Oxycontin misuse. In total I gave 12 workshops and touched down in every province. I had front-line workers in Vancouver lining up and crying and telling me horrific stories about addictions they were witnessing on the streets. In May 2007 I was interviewed for an article titled “Oxycontin: ‘Beyond an addiction’ at this time I was quoted as saying “the problem in Peterborough is only going to get worse until it is attacked head on […]we have a really severe problem in our city.” It was continued later on as “Society has been demanding narcotics and painkillers for a very long time. I think we always have to be aware these medications were developed for a reason. These pills have been established for chronic pain. There will always be people who abuse something, but there’s people who abuse coffee’s breaks too. Our concern should be why people are becoming addicts. Something will replace Oxycontin and you and I will have this conversation again.”
Well here were are, five years later, and we once again will have a conversation, but I think this time we need to look at the picture in a different way. We need to start asking questions and then demand the appropriate answers. Why did the Federal government allow Oxycontin into the country in the first place, and why did it take so long for the province to step in and try to take control of something that it should have done six years before. From 2001 to 2009 there was a 900% increase—why weren’t the alarms set off when it rose by 100%? Peterborough ranked second highest for opioid prescriptions in the province from 2004 to 2006—does this mean we have a large number of people in severe pain or does the province needs to monitor the physicians in this area who have no idea of what they are creating? Currently we have over 1500 people on the methadone maintenance programs in the Peterborough area— with the province spending 77.7 million on Oxycontin prescriptions from 2010 to 2011 how much can this cash strapped province afford in methadone? During a conversation with Dean Del Mastro, Peterborough’s MP, he informed me that the total cost for the methadone program in Peterborough is between $12 to 17 million per year—that is just in Peterborough.
I am not saying that there is not a place for methadone or suboxone—I think it is important for those people who cannot function without the opiate—however, I do believe that it should be used on a short term basis with programming, counselling and aftercare in place. Most people in this area are told that they will be on it for the rest of their lives—to me that is a life sentence as the methadone eventually causes problems too. These medical detox programs should be for the most difficult clients and should be used as the last resort. Many people I have worked with started taking oxycontin in legitimate way, but found themselves addicted and started buying them on the street when their physician stopped prescribing it. They used the drug to help take off the edge—to help get them through the day. No one is addressing the emotional pain. I keep reading article after article and everyone is talking about pain…but no one wants to talk about emotional pain.
Go up the coast on the James Bay and hear the stories about the residential school in Fort Albany and all of the other events that have occurred over many, many years—do you think the addictions there are not from emotional pain? I was in Attawapiskat and Kacheschewan three weeks ago and a Tylenol 3 is selling for $300 per pill and an oxy for $600. Think about that—I could sell 1000 Tylenol 3’s and walk away with 300,000 dollars. So, do you not think that whoever is selling these drugs and making that much money will not come up with another plan, another drug? This is big business. We are well aware of those on our streets that are moving illegal drugs, and in small communities it is common to hear people talk about who is moving drugs on their street. It is not hard to figure out when people are coming and going at all hours of the day and night. So why isn’t something being done about it, why is it not stopped?
I was in Dryden last week for business and the cab driver was telling me about the methadone clinic in Dryden and how all of the ODSP and OW clients get a free ride to and from the methadone clinics each day. The cost is picked up by the province. So I was curious when I returned home and called a local cab company to see if this was also true in Peterborough and they verified that yes that too is the protocol in Peterborough. So not only do we pay for the methadone but we also pay for the ride to and from. If oxycontin has costed the province 1 billion dollars over the past 10 years, what is methadone going to cost us and where is this money going to come from? People that are now using oxycontin illegally are also using other drugs with it. Often one helps the other even out when needed. People now will select another opiate for example hyromorphone—which is dilaudid, morphine, percocets/oxycets and fentanly patches—which are currently selling on the street for $200. Methadone is now in a greater demand on the streets so more and more people are selling a portion of their methadone to make money. If you are not followed closely on methadone by a doctor there is a great chance that you can overdose and die—your brain sends a message to your lungs to stop breathing and they do. The scariest part about all of this is each of the drugs that I mentioned above are different they each have different peak times so if the user is not aware of this they may take too much and accidentally overdose.
Most people are reporting the widespread of withdrawals that are going to happen and I don’t think that people are talking about the increase of overdoses that we should be preparing ourselves for. People are going to die. Within the black market prices are going to change as oxycontins become less and less, something will replace it and the cost will rise. With the increase will come a sudden increase in crime—we are already seeing more weapons now it will be interesting to see what is going to happen. At Whitepath Consulting on Charlotte Street we have had an increase in calls from people either wanting counselling or treatment to get off of either methadone or prescription medication. We are a private business we are not funded by the government, as the biggest problem with government funded programs is funding. None of these programs seem to have enough money.
The results of the limited funding means that there are resources that the government funded centers are unable to take advantage of. For us here at Whitepath we can see as many people that requests our services as we are not reliant on funding. It is time for all levels of government to assess what is now in place for addiction services and see what is working, how is success measured and what is the cost to the taxpayers? Who is sitting around these tables making the decisions—if we don’t stop and look at this pandemic seriously—addictions will bankrupt our health care in Canada. This is a serious matter and needs immediate attention—this is beyond the 12-step model—people are suffering and need help. Everyone is talking about pain, but why are we not addressing the emotional pain—why are we so stuck on abstinence and avoidance—isn’t that why most of these people are addicted; because they avoided facing the emotional pain? Just like chasing your tail, we must always remember one thing:
Addictions are not the problem, it is “why are people addicted?”