New provincial opioid strategy 'a start,' but not enough, drug strategy specialist says

A new provincial opioid strategy announced Wednesday is a start, but there is much more work to be done to curb addiction and overdoses, Michael Parkinson of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council says.

'We’ve really just started to apply some Band-Aids,' Michael Parkinson says

Michael Parkinson, a drug strategy specialist with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, said the province's new strategy is a start, but hopefully more will be done to curb opioid use. (Canadian Press)

A new provincial strategy to curb opioid addiction and overdoses is a Band-Aid solution, but will hopefully spur a more proactive approach to combating drug use, a local drug strategy specialist says.

"It's a start and hopefully the start of something bigger and better," Michael Parkinson of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council told CBC KW's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Thursday.

Parkinson said the announcement Wednesday by Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins included some old recommendations, some new information and different initiatives. It is a long way from comprehensive, which is how Hoskins described it, but it is a sign that Toronto is paying attention to a problem that affects the entire province, he said.

Withdrawl 'a real mental and physical mess'

Among the measures announced Wednesday was making it easier for family physicians to prescribe suboxone, which is similar to methadone in helping people kick opioid addictions.

"What's often missed in media and policy announcements is the impact of opioid withdrawal on families and certainly the individual," Parkinson said.

"If you think of the worst flu you've ever had, you multiply it by 10,000 times, you've got fluids coming out from everywhere, it's a real mental and physical mess,"

Suboxone, he said, can "taper the effects of that withdrawal."

Suboxone is considered safer than methadone and Parkinson says from talking to users, people tend to prefer suboxone.

Move towards prevention needed

Parts of Health Minister Eric Hoskins plan to deal with opiod abuse is under fire by addiction specialists. (CBC)

"They are absolutely critical measures at a time when we are facing a public-health crisis across the country," Hoskins told a news conference Wednesday of the new strategy.

There are approximately 50,000 people who are currently receiving methadone treatment in the province, Hoskins said. But there are likely many who need methadone and can't get it because they're in a rural or underserviced area. Making suboxone more readily available can only benefit those people, he said.

"I believe that this comprehensive strategy will propel us to the front of jurisdictions not just in Canada but worldwide in responding holistically and effectively to this growing opioid crisis," Hoskins said.

Parkinson argued what would really set Ontario apart is focusing on more than treatment.

"We've really just started to apply some Band-Aids," he said. "Where we need to move is towards prevention."

with files from Andrea Janus


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