SUSN draws crowd for workshop 0
The Substance Use in North Hastings (SUSN) group was overwhelmed with response to their workshop, Moving Forward with Solutions, held on April 18.
The response was so big, in fact, that the venue had to be changed at the last minute and even in the new space offered by the Town of Bancroft in the Dungannon Centre, attendees were packed in tight.
The half-day workshop covered areas like drugs 101 looking at what drugs are being used in North Hastings. There was also a workshop on how to help people get help and the event finished off with a workshop focusing on treatment options for addiction to painkillers.
There were representatives from 28 different community organizations and participants traveled from as far away as Belleville, Madoc and Peterborough. All of the participants were hungry for information and appreciative of the opportunity to share experiences and solutions.
Paula Langdon-Paterson is an addictions nurse who works at an opioid addiction centre in Peterborough. She spoke to the group in frank terms referencing her personal experience.
In her clinic, she says she deals with three main populations. There are those who have used their pain medication as prescribed and ended up with an addiction. She deals with a transient population and she deals with youth. The numbers of youth are growing.
Langdon-Paterson explained that many users of opioids try to stop the drugs on their own and that the resulting flu-like symptoms can be devastating. Their skin crawls, they sweat, experience abdominal cramping and there can also be severe psychological symptoms. All of the symptoms should subside in around 10 days but getting through the 10 days is such a nightmare that many start using drugs again.
Langdon-Paterson says her concern is the behaviours that can be associated with the physical symptoms. The symptoms are relentless and often when she sees people they are desperate. There are other serious risks for those who are detoxing from the drugs because if they go back to using opioids they might not be able to tolerate the amount they used previously and accidental overdoses are common.
People who are desperate are also more likely to commit suicide.
"My job is to make the patient comfortable and then deal with the secondary issues or psych issues," she explained.
She says the best way to detox is without drugs but that's not always possible so when people are desperate or have experienced repeated frustration with coming off the drugs Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) is an option.
MMT involves giving the client another drug that masks the high of the opioids and also takes away the feeling of illness. Then, over time, the client will be detoxed from the MMT drugs.
In all cases, counselling needs to be part of the process and as Langdon-Paterson says, counselling doesn't do much when the client is uncomfortable so you have to help them deal with the symptoms.
Used since the 1960s, Methadone has shown positive outcomes and in many cases is the drug of choice as people are weaned off the opioids. Dealing with the medication requires a special license and heavy regulation is in place.
With no concrete discussion about the future clinic set to open in Bancroft, Langdon-Paterson explains the emphasis of her clinic is on reducing harm to the community first and harm to the client next.
"When they come to the clinic we want to know that other methods have failed," she explained. "We work with clients through three phases including stabilization, maintenance and the tapering phase where we reduce the medication."
"There is an addiction to Methadone," she explained. "It's like a nicotine patch. This is not a cure- this is maintenance so they can move forward and exist. The process can take one year or it could take 20. Everyone is different."
Participation in an MMT is highly regulated and all patients are registered so that they can't double doctor. Drug screens happen to test for other drugs being used and the drug screens also test for methadone.
"If you pee negative for Methadone we have a problem," Langdon-Paterson says.
And that's why they test for the drug. If you don't test positive for Methadone then you're not taking it and if you're not taking it the clinic needs to know where the drugs went. They do not hesitate to call the police in these situations. It is a serious crime punishable by jail time.
"There will always be those who break the rules," Langdon-Paterson says.
The riveted crowd listened to the explanation of the "carry" system. Because Methadone needs to be taken each day those who participate and show positive results in the program can be approved for a carry. This means they take the drugs home and administer in privacy instead of in front of a pharmacist. Those having carry status are closely monitored and if they break the rules the privileges are gone.
"Most people don't want to be on Methadone so they work hard at the program," she explained.
When a question was asked about a local clinic there was applause as so many in the room understood the unfortunate need for local support for those addicted to opioids in our community.
"When service isn't available we're not doing justice to the client," Langdon-Paterson said bluntly.
With the workshop wrapped up there was a sense that people wanted more information so the SUSN group is making plans for a public meeting to be held in the weeks ahead to continue the dialogue.
Deputy Mayor Wayne Wiggins was in attendance for the event saying that he wanted to learn more- especially about the new local clinic.
"This group thinks it's needed and they're the experts," he said.
Organizer Kathy Hardill said she was gratified at the huge response and with the interest.
"Education is what people need to get," she said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn more and it was nice for everyone to be comfortable enough to ask the questions they wanted all the way through."
Hardill says she's also glad to recognize the support from the Town of Bancroft for donating the meeting space and also to Sun Run Café in Maynooth for preparing all the food. Youth in Action helped out and all the members of SUSN put in a great deal of effort and energy to putt it together.
Sarah Phoenix is the executive director of Maggie's Resource Centre. She also helped pull the event together.
"I think people were hoping for miracle answers but there are no concrete answers," she said as people were leaving the workshop.
"I am excited to see the community support and that we had such a great cross-section of our local agencies."
As Langdon-Paterson pointed out in her presentation, community-based clinics work well and from the great attendance of workers from the helping agencies of Bancroft, it looks as though effective help is finally coming for those who need it locally.