Regina-area drug counsellor says more teens are using opioids

Click to play video: 'Opioid poisoning rates on the rise in Saskatchewan' Opioid poisoning rates on the rise in Saskatchewan
Opioid poisoning rates on the rise in Saskatchewan – Nov 18, 2016

Opioids take many forms. There are the common hard street versions like heroin and fentanyl, as well as prescription versions like Oxycodone.

Drug counsellor and educator Rand Teed has over 30 years experience. He said most addicts get their start either through Oxycodone, or using other street drugs, such as cocaine, that are laced with an opiate.

“I’ve had more high school kids admit to using opiates recreationally than I have for years,” Teed said.

“A lot of opiates are showing up at teen parties and that kind of thing.”

Teed believes this is because a significant amount of attention has been paid to these drugs recently, and the availability of opioids is high.

Drug counsellor Rand Teed speaks with Global News in his office at Riffel High School. Sean Lerat-Stetner/Global News

A recent study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information says Saskatchewan has the highest opioid poisoning rate in Canada. Sixty-five per cent of the cases involved people aged 15 to 24.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan has highest rates of opioid poisoning in Canada: report

A part of the danger with these drugs is that addiction and tolerance can develop very quickly. Opioids are painkillers, and going off them completely can lead to significant physical side effects.

“Initially, 20 milligrams of Oxycodone two or three times a day keeps your pain stabilized. Within very few days, six or eight days you might need twice that much,” Teed explained.

“As soon as your tolerance goes up you start looking for stronger and stronger things.”

Teed said that this dependency makes getting off opioids very difficult, especially without the assistance of transition drugs like methadone and suboxone.

Nicole is a struggling drug addict who has been through Teed’s counselling. She’s had numerous drug struggles throughout her life, including heroin. The last time she hit bottom and tried to get off the drug she didn’t have access to methadone.

“I wanted to kill myself almost because that’s how bad it is. Your bones ache, you’re sweating, you’re puking, you can’t do anything about it,” Nicole explained.

Teed stressed that addiction needs to be treated as a medical issue and not something to be stigmatized. It’s an issue that extends beyond just opioid addiction.

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“Not only are we in an opioid crisis, I think we’re in the middle of a substance abuse epidemic. Alcohol is still killing four to five times as many people as opiates are, but somehow we aren’t addressing that,” Teed said.

“For the most part opiate addictions aren’t generated on their own, it’s someone who has a substance abuse problem with another substance and it’s transitioned into that.”

Federal Opioid Response

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott is hosting a national conference to develop an opioid strategy in Ottawa. Saskatchewan is being represented by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

READ MORE: Opioid crisis a national public emergency and Ottawa needs to act, medical experts say

The conference is scheduled to conclude Saturday. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health has the following measures in place to combat opioid issues.

  • Reducing the risk of prescription drug misuse through the Prescription Review Program, the Pharmaceutical Information Program, The National Common Drug Review and the Drug Advisory Committee of Saskatchewan, The RxFiles, and Drug Plan Claim Adjudication Policies.
  • Reducing the risks associated with injection drug use through Prevention and Risk Reduction programs, such as needle and syringe programs.
  • Reducing the risk of opioid overdose deaths through the availability of Take Home Naloxone (THN) kits.
  • Treating opioid dependence with Methadone Maintenance Treatment and Recovery (MMTR) programs
  • Providing a continuum of alcohol and drug services to individuals who use substances, as well as to their families.
  • The development of educational materials for the public and health care/allied professionals regarding opioids and the treatment of opioid dependence.

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