Former meth users say government funding for detox treatment not enough
Winnipeg needs more safe places for addicts after treatment beds, recovering users argue
In the throes of a meth addiction for around 18 years, Michael Adrian says more treatment beds to help others dependant on the drug isn't enough.
He credits a jail cell with becoming the long-term treatment centre he would have needed.
"I was lucky, doing 16 months in jail and then pretty much two years" in sober housing, he said. "I don't think I would be here right now if I did 28 days [in detox] and without any social supports or anything outside of that."
On Friday, the provincial and federal governments announced $8.4 million to provide more treatment beds that offer longer stays, as well as the creation of mobile teams, for people experiencing methamphetamine addiction — which has been described as a crisis in Winnipeg.
Politicians said Manitoba needs this, because patients can only access the current allotment of treatment beds one week at a time.
I really think successful treatment of a meth addict is, at a minimum, a two-year undertaking.- Marion Willis, Morberg House
Adrian, 38, said the move to provide beds for a month or less isn't sufficient.
A gap in care
"It's not long enough to deal with what they need to deal with," said Adrian, a social worker-in-training trying to help former addicts like himself.
Marion Willis runs Morberg House, the St. Boniface halfway house for recovering addicts where Adrian is finishing his practicum.
She said short-term treatment facilities, while commendable in many instances, aren't equipped to scrutinize the underlying issues, such as mental health, that makes someone susceptible to addiction.
As such, people are more likely to relapse, she said.
"I really think successful treatment of a meth addict is, at a minimum, a two-year undertaking."
She believes the province needs more facilities like Morberg House, where clients have an intake date but no designated time to leave. Once better, they may be directed to sober housing and remain in contact with the supportive team at Morberg for two years.
I have a constant reminder every time I run my fingers across my scalp. There's a dent.- Michael Adrian
And they're learning to get better with the help of people like Adrian, who has first-hand experience.
He said meth enticed a shy and timid guy like him out of his shell. He became the life of the party under the drug's influence.
"I honestly fell in love with it."
Run-ins with the law
Adrian became a dealer and was robbed more times than he can remember. Once, he was slapped across the forehead with a pistol.
"I have a constant reminder every time I run my fingers across my scalp. There's a dent."
Adrian became addicted, but functioned well enough to hold down jobs and maintain a roof over his head. He began to unravel when a friend died by suicide in 2011, hours after he supplied him with meth.
Adrian said his friend didn't die of an overdose, but he blamed himself for his friend's death. Adrian used meth even more to dull his pain, but he could no longer hide the drug's effects from the people around him.
He credits the police with finally saving him. He was arrested for possession with the intent of trafficking.
"I think I had prayed to God for the first time in I don't know how many years, just wanting it to stop," he said of the day in 2015 when he broke free. "I guess he answered my prayers because I got arrested."
Ricky Aitken, a 31-year-old man living at Morberg House, remembers wanting a way out.
He loved the rush the drug gave him, but it induced bizarre hallucinations where he thought people were chasing him, and thought the TV was telling him to drop a cinder block on his leg. Eventually, he had enough.
After various starts and stops, Aitken arrived at Morberg House. It's keeping him busy — he's writing music every day and attending meetings.
The government investment for more treatment beds helps, he said, but you need a place to go once the bed is needed for someone else.
Aitken is an example of why regular, prolonged supervision is needed, he said. He had a brief relapse only eight days ago.
"I can't go from zero to 100 too fast, but I'm trying," Aitken said.
Manitoba is now looking for a private contractor to deliver more treatment beds and new clinical teams. A decision is expected this spring.