Nfld. & Labrador

Modern medicine: New rapid access treatment helps more than 200 opioid addicts

A new pilot project between a Springdale doctor and a Stephenville pharmacist is using telemedicine to treat more than 200 opioid addicts.

Program partners with pharmacies, uses telemedicine

A new pilot project between a Springdale doctor and a Stephenville pharmacist is using telemedicine to treat more than 200 opioid addicts.

Two hundred opioid addicts from all over the province are in various stages of recovery thanks to a new rapid access treatment program that uses telemedicine to treat patients.

Dr. Todd Young is based in Springdale, but is able to treat addicts all over the province with the help of telemedicine and partnerships with pharmacies. Young says he can have a patient on the road to recovery within five days of a first assessment.

Dr. Todd Young would like to see technology become part of a provincial model for the delivery of addictions treatment. (Submitted)

Young said he realized the demand was out there when he arrived at his Springdale clinic one morning and was surprised to see a woman bundled up in a blanket and parked in a truck.

"She said, 'Dr. Young, I need help. I need help and I need it today,'" Young told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show. 

He said the woman heard about his clinic through word of mouth — and word spread far and fast of Young's clinic.

Young said he quickly ended up with more than 30 people travelling 250 kilometres from the Stephenville area for help, and realized he needed a way to treat people remotely.

Pilot Project

Young started a partnership with pharmacist Trent White of Pharmachoice in Stephenville. White said while some pharmacists may be reluctant to dispense methadone and suboxone, he saw the need in his community and wanted to help.

Stephenville Pharmacist Trent White has partnered with Dr. Young to help treat opioid addicts in the Stephenville area. (CBC)

"A lot of these patients, when they want help, they need access to those services immediately or in a very short period of time," White said.

Besides providing the treatment to patients in the program, White also offers the space in his consultation room for Young to arrange teleconferences with his patients in Stephenville — a key component to the road to recovery.

Helping those in need

One woman from western Newfoundland — CBC agreed to not identify her — was addicted to the opioid Dilaudid to relieve pain she had from an injury.

Although the drug eased the pain, she knew within six months that she had a problem and couldn't get off the medication.

"You're always chasing the drug, man. Before you go to bed you're thinking about how you're going to get something the next morning so you don't get sick," she said.

The woman told CBC she wasn't addicted to the high, but the dependency to function each day.

For almost a year she was trying to get help for her addiction, but couldn't find a doctor to prescribe the treatment medication for her. That's when she went to Young's rapid access program.

The woman said after the first day, she started to feel like her "old self" again.

"I took the dose at the pharmacy. I came home, I [lied] down for an hour and I woke up and it was like I felt different — I wasn't in withdrawal anymore," she said.

"I get emotional thinking about it, because it's given me back my life."

The woman has now been in treatment for more than 30 days.

Building framework

Young said it's stories like hers that make him wish more doctors would get involved.

He said embracing technology is the key to helping addicts get to recovery, adding he'd like to see technology become part of a provincial model for the delivery of addictions treatment.

"Developing a framework where someone can pick up their phone, or email, and have direct access to a clinician or their support team is very important," Young said.


Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show