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New at-home detox option available in Vancouver

FILE PHOTO: a take-home naloxone anti-opiate drug kit. Natasha Pace/Global News

Drug users who may not be able or may not want to go to a residential detox program now have the option to kick their habit at home.

Substance use Treatment and Response Team, or START is a new program launched by Vancouver Coastal Health and it aims at providing quick access to at-home detox.

The health authority said research shows people that are able to go through the process of withdrawal and detox in their home with supports in place, are more likely to succeed.

“For those individuals who will not go into residential detox because of the stigma, this is far more palatable,” VCH spokesperson Mary Marlow said in a statement.

“It also works well for people trying to hold down a job, those with disabilities, and single mothers with children.”

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It takes two weeks from start to finish and involves an assessment by a nurse and physician, along with daily home visits for the first five days of the program. The first week of the program is focused on medical care and the second week is connecting clients to resources within VCH to support their ongoing recovery.

To be eligible for the START program applicants must be 19 years of age and older, live in Vancouver, be living in a safe, stable, substance-free environment, and have a 24-hour support person to get through the withdrawal process.

Marlow said within two hours of getting a referral, a START nurse will contact the client and schedule an assessment. All drug users who are opioid dependent (ie. vicodin, oxycontin, percocet, morphine, etc.) get take-home naloxone kits and are trained, along with their support person, on how to use it.

“Our current understanding of addiction as a chronic disease affecting the brain has led to significant medical advances,” said START physician, Dr. John Álvarez de Lorenzana.

“Medications, such as Suboxone, which is considered a safer opioid replacement than methadone – play an important role in both harm reduction, engagement in recovery activities and daily functioning, helping people stabilize over time.”

The START program is expected to help more than 400 people annually.

Referrals can be made through Community Health Centres, physicians with opioid dependent clients and existing VCH programs.

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