British Columbia

B.C. Centre on Substance Use recommends Suboxone over methadone

In the face of the growing fentanyl crisis in B.C., opioid researchers are sharing the key findings of the provincial opioid addiction guidelines with front-line health care workers, a month before they're due to be published.

Health experts sharing key findings of new provincial opioid guidelines ahead of the papers' publish date

The gravity of the opioid crisis has led the B.C. Centre on Substance Use to share its unpublished findings with front-line health-care workers. Its full report won't be made public until January. (CBC)

In the face of the growing fentanyl crisis in B.C., opioid researchers are sharing the key findings of the provincial opioid addiction guidelines with front-line health care workers, a month before they're due to be published.

Cheyenne Johnson, the research leader with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, was in Kelowna on Thursday to present the best practices to health-care workers from across the Interior Health Authority.

In an interview with CBC Radio One's Daybreak South, Johnson said, although the provincial guidelines are not expected to be published until early 2017, researchers want to get the information to front-line workers now.

"We are close to 700 deaths in the province, up to the end of October, and who knows what the numbers are going to look like for November," she said.

Suboxone over methadone

"It's definitely a crisis — two people dying on average in the province per day."

The key highlights are a shift to the drug Suboxone over methadone as the first line of treatment for opioid addiction and a recommendation that detox not be used as a stand alone treatment option.

"If somebody just goes into a withdrawal management facility and isn't connected into treatment afterwards, we know that they are at very high risk of an overdose and transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, if they inject drugs," 

According to Johnson, Suboxone is a better option for treating addiction because it has a six-times better safety profile compared to methadone.

"This is a bit of a flip because generally practitioners have considered methadone the gold standard for the last 40 years," she said.

Another advantage of Suboxone is that it comes in pill form which means patients don't have to go to a pharmacy every day to access their medication, like they do with methadone, she said.

Cheynne Johnson, the research leader with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, presented the key findings to health-care workers in Kelowna, B.C., on the yet-to-be-published provinicial opioid addiction guidelines. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Suboxone itself doesn't stop an overdose but is used to treat opioid addiction by stopping cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms.

This summer, the College of Physicians and Surgeons changed regulations to make it easier for primary care provider to prescribe Suboxone.

The B.C. opioid addiction guidelines are expected to be published in January 2017.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: B.C. Centre on Substance Use recommends Suboxone over methadone