There are almost twice as many people getting addiction treatment through P.E.I.'s methadone program than there were 18 months ago.
'Opioid addiction is close to the alcohol numbers.'— Dr. Don Ling
Methadone is used by people trying to get off their addictions to heroin or painkillers such as Dilaudid or OxyContin. There are now 140 people in P.E.I.'s methadone program, and another 50 on a waiting list. A year and a half ago there were just 80 people in the program.
Dr. Don Ling, a consultant at the Mount Herbert addictions facility, told CBC News on Monday that most people in detox used to be trying to get off alcohol.
"Now it's almost even," said Ling.
"If you look at our admissions to detox, opioid addiction is close to the alcohol numbers. And that shows the increasing importance of this substance."
Methadone is also an opioid, but it doesn't give patients the high and helps prevent painful withdrawal. Ling believes opioid addictions are increasing simply because there are more addictive pain pills out there.
He said doctors need to monitor for whom they prescribe them.
"You'll find that sometime during 2010 there will be a release of guidelines to prescribe opioids across the country, for all physicians. And hopefully they'll pay heed to this and follow the guidelines," he said.
It can take three to seven years for people to get off methadone, which means those people on the program now will be on it for some time.