Oxy addictions still prevalent in communities

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:28

It has been four months since Oxycontin was discontinued in Ontario and First Nations communities across the north are still waiting to see a decrease in supply of the drug and to feel the effects of mass withdrawal.
Earlier in the year, NAN leaders expressed concerns over the effect discontinuation of Oxycontin – a highly-addictive opioid – would have on remote First Nations communities in northern Ontario. With thousands of NAN-community members addicted to the drug, leaders feared the involuntary mass-withdrawal would have serious consequences since treatment programs were lacking in many communities.
Months later, some communities are still waiting to feel the effect of mass withdrawal and the expected decrease in supply of the drug.
“The panic I was feeling hasn’t really materialized,” said Dr. Claudette Chase, a physician in the community of Eabametoong First Nation. “Not too many people have presented withdrawal symptoms.”
Chase has been very vocal in the past about the discontinuation of the drug and how it would devastate communities where no treatment programs or options were available to handle withdrawal from the drug, but she has not witnessed an increase in Oxycontin-withdrawal symptoms as of late.
“I don’t know why we haven’t seen a more of a problem with the lack of pills,” Chase said. She explained that users have not had too much trouble finding the drug even though it has been discontinued. Chase suggested that there must have been a “bigger stockpile” of Oxycontin pills than anyone realized.
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Deputy Chief Darryl Sainnawap also reported that there has not been much change in his community when it comes to Oxycontin.
“It’s still the same,” Sainnawap said. He noted that withdrawal effects can be felt when the community is dry. “I don’t sense that anything has changed. People are still able to get (Oxycontin).”
Sainnawap said that he has heard rumors of a large underground supply of the drug, which could explain why the hysteria leaders and medical professionals originally feared have not yet come to pass.
Meanwhile, steps continue to be taken to treat Oxycontin-users.
In Eabametoong, for example, over 100 people are enrolled in a Suboxone treatment plan. Suboxone is a drug used to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and is covered by the federal government’s Non-Insured Health Benefits program. Chase explained that Suboxone helps users get off Oxycontin without the horrible withdrawal.
Several NAN communities are now administering Suboxone to those community members who are in treatment for Oxycontin-addiction.
Other communities have taken a drug-free approach to addiction treatment.
Sainnawap said that KI is still running their Mamow Against Drugs Healing Program, a 30-day detox treatment program that does not substitute Oxycontin with any other drug.
“No Suboxone, no methadone, they go cold turkey” Sainnawap said.
There were recently three graduates of the program. Since its inception in 2010, the treatment program has seen much success with only one graduate relapsing.
Yet despite the success of these types of programs, challenges remain.
Sainnawap feels that there is a huge need for an aftercare program following the detox.
“They struggle,” Sainnawap said of the graduates of the program. “They need an aftercare program, anyone who wants to continue on their healing journey needs aftercare.”
Chase said that there are still problems with getting prenatal treatment programs for women who are addicted to Oxycontin and are pregnant.

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