Friday, November 04, 2005

Dilaudid Dilemma

So far this week, I have met with 4 people addicted to the painkiller, Dilaudid. Known as "Hillbilly Heroin," Dilaudid is easily accessible, and thought to be more addictive than crack cocaine. I had never heard of the drug 5 years ago. Now, it is commonplace, spreading rampantly as the drug of choice particularly in certain rural communities in my part of the world. A week doesn't go by that I find myself listening to another heart wrenching story about a person who was prescribed this drug by their doctor for supposedly legitimate physical pain, and within 4 or 5 doses, are hooked. The slippery slope to dependancy has started. The stress and emotional pain that they hadn't been coping with chemically alleviates as well, as they continually search for the intial feeling of drug-induced bliss. It can happen to anyone.

Alarm bells need to be ringing louder than they are! It's time for community members to wake up! The police are aware. They are dealing with the fallout everyday. The media continues to write stories about the program. People who work in the frontlines know what's up. Street workers and community based programs offering services to the disenfranchised.......well, they could tell stories that would make your stomach churn. But, "Joe Citizen" isn't paying attention to the rise in crime, the increase in transients, the increase in the numbers of people who frequent the local soup kitchens and homeless shelters that are high on Dilaudid, or the fact that this drug is so easy to get. Unless he has been touched personally, "Joe Citizen" does not plan to lift his head and see the carnage.

There is one small community in this area that seems to bear the brunt of the epidemic. Time and again, I hear about the same doctor, prescribing the same drug...........for everything from back pain due to difficult labour and delivery to fibromyalgia pain (fibromyalgia is almost always the manifestation of chronic depression and anxiety that has not been treated effectively) to chronic pain from accidents, to arthritis. It seems like this particular doctor thinks the drug is a cure-all for most ailments. No personal counselling or even listening to the patient describe their daily ongoing struggles. No naturopathic type remedies. Instead, prescriptions are written, and new people get hooked everyday. It's well known too, that if you're looking for Dilaudid or Oxycontin, head out there and you can easily buy it from one of several dealers.

The treatment of choice across North America is Methadone. Clinics have sprung up in every major city in this country in order to dispense the drug to people addicted to any opiod (Heroin, Dilaudid, Oxycontin). With the city of Vancouver leading the way, these treatment centres are considered our most effective intervention in the war against the spread of HIV/AIDs, Hep C, drug related crime, and in providing counselling to individuals who have lost their lives. If an individual is involved in the treatment program, they must attend everyday to receive their "shot." There are so many addicts in and around this region that the length of the waiting list is over 6 months.

I am not convinced that the Methadone program is working, because it doesn't seem to be accompanying the counselling intervention that is also needed. Plus, it appears that there are a great number of people who will live out the rest of their lives using Methadone as a crutch. Many don't seem to have any intentions of easing off that drug. What's the point of replacing one drug for another if there isn't a wholistic approach to the problem?

Am I missing something here? The one thing that seems to be common with the individuals I meet with is that there is always an underlying emotionally or psychologically traumatic story. Addictions most often result because of the need to mask psychological pain, anxiety or depresson. Healthy coping skills and stress fall to the wayside, and an individual reaches for some avenue of self-medication.

Dilaudid is a community owned problem. It may seem to most people that it's not touching them directly. It is..........both in taxpayers dollars, in personal and property security, and most importantly in the loss of human potential. But, if one doesn't have a "face" to put on the problem, how can one really be aware of it? My next couple of additions to this blog will try to ameliorate that problem as I plan add a face to the canvas.

Awareness is a good thing, but it can also feel like a kick in the gut. Sometimes we need that.

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