British Columbia

Injectable opioid treatment comes to Vancouver Island for first time

A method for treating opioid dependence, which allows patients to take medication through a syringe rather than orally is coming to Vancouver Island for the first time.

The treatment delivers pharmaceutical-grade opioids via a syringe, rather than pills

The injections will be administered in the Johnston Street Community by the Portland Hotel Society, which already administers iOAT in Vancouver. (Island Health)

A method for treating opioid dependence, which allows patients to take medication through a syringe rather than orally is coming to Vancouver Island for the first time.

Intended to help those suffering from opioid dependence, Injectable Opioid Agonist Treatment (iOAT) delivers pharmaceutical-grade opioids via a syringe, rather than pills.

The syringe method is used when more common oral treatment isn't effective for a patient, according to Island Health. People process the drugs differently and sometimes new methods must be tried, says the health authority.

Island Health has contracted Portland Hotel Society's Community Services Society to administer the injections at its Johnston Street location in downtown Victoria.

Island Health says the new treatment will be provided to six Johnston Street clients through daily supervised injections in a clinic. The six clients haven't had success with pill-based treatment, and have instead opted to this route.

Island Health says the syringe method may work where previous methods, which involve taking pills of suboxone or methadone — has not.

Without taking opioids, someone who is dependent on them will typically begin to experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including pain and nausea. Island Health says Opioid Agonist Treatment is a proven treatment for people with long-term, chronic opioid dependency.

"Everyone deserves to be supported in finding their own unique pathway to hope and a pathway to healing," said B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy in a statement.

"For some people that includes medication-assisted treatments like iOAT."

"Adding this life-saving treatment option in Victoria means more people will be able to find the help they need when they need it."

The Johnston Street Community provides health services, counselling and drug-use education. Many of its patrons are returning clients. While only six people will receive the treatment initially, Island Health says Johnston Street has the capacity to serve 20. Johnston Street's clinic includes a multi-use area where clients engage with health and wellness services.

The treatment is already in use in Vancouver and Kelowna.

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