March 9, 2016 6:43 pm
Updated: March 9, 2016 8:55 pm

Experts say battling prescription drug abuse in Nova Scotia is difficult

WATCH ABOVE: With Nova Scotia's ongoing prescription drug abuse problem, one pharmacist feels drug stores will continue to be targets for crime. Alexa MacLean reports on treatment methods for opioid users.

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A Halifax pharmacist says drug stores will continue to be likely targets for crime among people battling addiction.

Peter Jorna, who also owns two pharmacies in the city, was targeted this week when one of his stores was robbed.

“An individual forced his way into the pharmacy, held a student who was working for me at knifepoint and demanded us to open up our narcotic safe,” he said.

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Jorna says shaking the effects of opioid addiction is easier said than done, and he knows how desperate some people can become to avoid getting “dope sick”.

“A lot of people would describe the feeling like a hug from your mother and a bowl of chicken noodle soup,” he said of the drugs’ effects.

He stresses that the pain medication the thief at his store was likely searching for is not stored at that location.

“The nature of my pharmacy on Coburg Road is one where there isn’t a lot of opioids that are dispensed out of there,” he said. “The individual was probably frustrated to find out that he didn’t get what he was looking for.”

Direction 180, a community-based methadone program, provides support for people battling opioid addiction.

Executive director Cindy MacIsaac said the program helps people dealing with addiction to prescription drugs.

“It floods the receptors that an opioid would attach itself to and totally eliminates withdrawals and cravings. There’s no euphoria,” he said. “There’s a lot of myths that people get on methadone and they come in for their daily fix to get high. They’re not getting high, they’re taking a medication that treats the withdrawal.”

The program supports almost 500 clients, which is well over capacity, and has 50 people on its waiting list.

David Ford, who is a recovering addict, has treated his opioid addiction with methadone for 16 years.

He gets his prescription filled at one of Jorna’s locations, and says addictions will always be an issue that people in society must face.

The road to recovery is much easier, he says, when there are compassionate medical professionals like Jorna who can help.

“You know people will find it. If it’s around, people will find it. We’re just lucky to have a person like Peter to look after us,” Ford said.

MacIsaac says it’s clear how big the opioid abuse problem has become.

“It’s a huge problem in Nova Scotia. I think the general public is not aware of the magnitude of the issue in our province with prescription drug use and opioid addiction,” she said.

More information about Direction 180 and the services it provides are available online.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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