U of S professor studying why people drop out of treatment after overdoses in Sask.

Dr. Rohit Lodhi said there could be many factors leading people to leave treatment early.

Dr. Rohit Lodhi said there could be many factors leading people to leave treatment early

A University of Saskatchewan Professor hopes to understand what factors may lead a person to drop out of opioid treatment. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah/The Associated Press)

Overdoses continue to rise in Saskatoon and Regina.

Regina has already had at least 450 drug-related overdoses and 33 deaths in 2020. Saskatoon paramedics reported a record-high week for overdoses after responding to 94 calls from July 6 to July 13. 

Now, a University of Saskatchewan researcher has received a grant to fund research into why people drop out of drug treatment programs. 

Doctor Rohit Lodhi is a psychiatrist with a special interest in addiction. He is an assistant professor in the  department of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan.

He started his research in Edmonton, looking at the dropout rates from the opioid clinic there. From 3,000 admissions over 10 years, about 50 per cent would drop out either by discharging themselves or being discharged from a service.

"That's a very significant dropout rate and I think that certainly needs to improve," Lodhi said. "If patients remain in treatment then there is a less likelihood of experiencing adverse outcomes."

Lodhi said the data showed that people using crystal methamphetamine were most likely to drop out. 

"That gave me an insight as to why perhaps patients are dropping out, but being a retrospective study, doesn't give me the whole picture," Lodhi said. 

Lodhi decided to look at how patients were doing now instead of in the past and changed his focus to Saskatchewan, where one in three patients drop out. He moved to the University of Saskatchewan and started collaborating with other doctors, including Dr. Peter Butt and Dr. Andrew Yang.

A grant of more than $100,000 has been given to a researcher to try and understand why people may drop out of opioid treatment. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Now, the group has received a funding grant of about $118,165 from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation to look at new intakes and follow their progress. Lodhi said they'll be examining factors that may lead someone to drop out. 

Some of those factors could be adverse childhood experiences, adult psychological trauma, ADHD, food insecurity and cultural identity, he said. 

"We see that quite often in our patients, that trauma is very common and it'll be interesting to know how it sort of relates to remaining in treatment," he said. 

Lodhi said studies have shown a significant relationship between a person experiencing childhood trauma and obesity or substance abuse. He said childhood trauma can stem from physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or from having someone in the family who has an addiction.

He is also examining treatment for people have more than one addiction. He said an opioid clinic may not help someone who also has an addiction to alcohol. In the future, treatment centres should be taught how to help people heal and treat all addictions, he said. 

Lodhi said anyone who knows a person using substances should start an open conversation about treatment. 

"I think that anything that encourages patients to participate in treatment would be important in reducing any adverse outcomes."

With files from Saskatoon Morning and The Morning Edition