A couple who runs a volunteer addictions treatment service in Carbonear say drug abuse is rampant in Conception Bay North and they need government help to cope with the demand for support for addicts.
Jeff and Tammy Bourne, who have operated the U-Turn Drop-in Centre for the past two years, said they get 450 visits per month. Recently, they have been seeing 15 to 20 new people each month.
"I think we're only just skimming the surface right now," said Jeff Bourne. "I think once our name gets out there a bit more, we get more involved in the community and that, we're going to be a lot busier. We're almost [outgrown] this place right now."
Bourne said he has been seeing many people who have returned home with drug addictions after spending time working in Alberta, and most of the people under the age of 25 which visit U-Turn have been injecting drugs.
Bourne said the drug of choice seems to be prescription pain-killers.
RCMP sees evidence of increasing drug abuse
Cpl. Brent Hillier, of the Harbour Grace detachment of the RCMP, agreed with Bourne that prescription painkiller abuse seems be on the rise.
"Usually it's the combination of Dilaudids, which is the new drug of choice, as well fentanyl, which is most recently become popular in our area that we've learned. OxyNEOs, OxyContin, you can still receive, they are still out there, and Percocets," said Hillier.
Hillier said Dilaudid, a potent pain-killer, is five to seven times stronger than morphine.
Fentanyl, he continued, is a drug which is 100 times stronger than morphine. It comes in patch form and is meant to be three-day pain relief, but Hillier said many people in Conception Bay North are taking the dose all at once.
He also noted that double doctoring is on the rise, and the RCMP have caught people selling their prescriptions.
Hillier said the method of consumption of these drugs seems to be injection.
"On a, I'd say, daily basis we get reports of needles being found around businesses and different areas," said Hillier. "And people requesting us to pick those up and dispose of them."
Drug abuse linked to area deaths
Both Hillier and Bourne said drug abuse has been linked to a couple of deaths in the area over the past year or so.
"But it's kind of kept on the down low, I guess, due to the stigma attached to addiction," said Bourne.
Bourne added that his centre needs a full-time co-ordinator just to keep up with demand.
He said he has spoken with Finance Minister and Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy at a pre-budget consultation in Carbonear a few weeks ago.
Bourne said he told the finance minister that U-Turn saves the government money, by helping prevent drug relapses requiring further government funded treatment.
Bourne said he realizes that the province is making cuts to many services, but he's hoping that his addictions centre's work will convince government to give him extra support.