Nova Scotia

N.S. family says methadone wait unacceptable

A family driven to desperation by a son's addiction to prescription painkillers says there is an urgent need for more spots in methadone treatment facilities.

22-year-old is one of 300 on a waiting list

Teresa Nelson has been waiting six months to get her son, Shayne, into treatment for his addiction to painkillers. (CBC)

A Lower Sackville family driven to desperation by a son's addiction to prescription painkillers says there is an urgent need for more spots in Nova Scotia's methadone treatment facilities.  

Teresa Nelson first learned about her son's addiction to painkillers in December. She got a MasterCard bill for $4,000, then another one for $11,000.  

Nelson discovered her 22-year-old son, Shayne, had been taking out cash advances to buy street drugs.

Nelson said nearly everyday for the last six months she has called the clinic, hoping there will be a spot open for her son to get treatment.

Eventually, staff suggested they call every other day. Staff couldn't give her a timeline, they said just keep calling.  

It is not unusual for treatment waiting lists to reach 300 people long, with some clients waiting as long as four years. About 1,400 people in Nova Scotia have a legal prescription to use methadone.

The drug is used to treat opiate addictions and works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain to take away cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms. It is taken orally, usually mixed with juice.

Nelson says she often finds Shayne's syringes around the house. (CBC)

"More doctors need to be able to prescribe methadone," said Nelson.

"You can't have all these people — I know of three people who live in tents right now because their parents can't keep doing what I'm doing."  

Dr. Gus Grant, registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, said that Nova Scotia has about half the number of physicians treating patients with methadone per capita as British Columbia.  

"It's unfortunately the reality in the treatment of all diseases in the province," said Grant.

"So I think in Nova Scotia we certainly have room for more physicians practicing in this area... We know we need more."

'What choice do I have?' says Nelson

Nelson said she often finds her son's syringes around the house.  

"This is what I find, and sometimes they're in the closet on the little wooden shelf, sometimes they're in his mattress, sometimes they're hidden in socks."  

"I get so angry. And then it's like, 'That's it, I'm kicking him out, I'm not dealing with this anymore. That's it.' Then I'll calm down, say, 'What choice do I have? What else am I going to do?'"

Shayne Nelson is among 300 people on a methadone waiting list in Halifax. (CBC)

Shayne Nelson said when he found himself taking money from his family, he knew he had to stop.

"At first, you know, when you're mixed up with the drugs you don't really think about the repercussions of what happens and you don't feel that much emotion because the drug takes over," he said.

"I've tried detoxes, I've tried weaning myself down, and I've tried substituting other substances, and nothing has seemed to work."  

His mother said only another addict could understand why her son doesn't just quit. She said she has seen her son in withdrawal. 

"He's laying curled up in a fetal position, the pain in his joints, sweat pouring off him, his teeth chattering," she said.  

"I don't know what's real and what's not. I don't know how much is Shayne and how much is OxyContin and heroin."