People seeking help for drug and alcohol addictions can sometimes wait weeks to get the treatment they need.

And during that wait, addicts are more at risk, according to experts and advocates attending a conference in Saskatoon.

"It's those gaps in between treatment that often kills the addict," said Marie Agioritis, one of the speakers at the event called Perspectives on Use and Recovery at Saskatoon City Hospital on Monday. 

Agioritis's son died of a fentanyl overdose in 2015. Her other son is an addict, currently in recovery. She says one of the most common misconceptions from parents and loved ones is about how easy it is to get someone into proper treatment for their addiction.

"I talk to a lot of parents that go 'you know what — I catch my kid using and he's going straight into treatment' but that's not the reality," she said.  

"The reality is you can try to get them detoxed and hopefully get a bed but then it's one to six weeks which is a very vulnerable time for an addict."

'Strike while the iron is hot'

Dwayne Cameron, an addictions counsellor in Saskatoon, agrees people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction can be the most at risk while they wait for the proper treatment they need. 

He says while the wait to get someone into a brief detox can be short, getting someone into long-term patient care can sometimes take weeks. 

Dwayne Cameron

Dwayn Cameron, an addictions worker in Saskatoon, says more timely access to addictions treatment can be a matter of life or death

"We've got some great services already, but part of the problem is timely access," he said. 

"When it comes to addictions, there's a catch phrase we use that you need to strike when the iron is hot."

Cameron said addicts are the often the most vulnerable when they've detoxed and are no longer using. 

"We need to have it so there isn't a wait times because wait times become life and death," he said. 

Agioritis has been outspoken advocate for better addiction services since her son's death. She hopes by attending conferences and speaking publicly about her son's story, she can start to break the stigma surrounding addictions. 

That way, she believes, the public will start to demand better treatment options.

"We have to have a kinder gentler environment for the addict because most of the people who are dying right now and in fact all of them had someone who loved them and still loves them," she said.