February 8, 2019 8:24 pm
Updated: February 8, 2019 9:12 pm

Kelowna man struggling with opioid addiction says special clinic saved his life

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Andrew Leeking is a husband and a father, but he’s also a drug addict.

“About a year ago, I was one of those guys in the alley — pondering death, wondering whether or not I deserved to live,” Leeking said.

“I, personally, had three people die in my arms. I watched nine people die in the year that I was down in the streets so the numbers really are quite staggering,” he said.

READ MORE: Opioid addiction should be treated with medication, says new medical guideline


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But, Leeking added, he was given another chance through an Interior Health program known as opioid agonist treatment.

He started taking Suboxone, a drug that helps prevent cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms.

READ MORE: Suboxone — the go-to treatment for opioid addiction is saving lives

The provincial government announced on Friday that the opioid agonist treatment clinic will now offer longer hours and open on weekends.

People starting on the program are typically able to stabilize quickly so they can focus on other aspects of their lives, such as engaging in other treatment goals and reconnecting with family and friends, according to Interior Health.

READ MORE: 1 in 8 Canadians have a family member or close friend with an opioid addiction: Poll

The province also added three new physicians and two nurse practitioners to the clinic.

“When someone decides to reach out for help and they’re struggling with addiction and they’re at risk of overdose, the very last thing they want to hear is take a number,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy.

READ MORE: Recovering drug addict talks about his latest attempt to get clean using suboxone

The change was prompted after Interior Health asked people why they were missing their doses.

“Sometimes, it was transportation, [but] a lot of it was around work,” said Danielle Cameron, a spokesperson with Interior Health. “We recognized that we needed to go out of those banker hours.”

As for Leeking, he said that although he has to live with his choices, he doesn’t have to stick with them.

“I have an eight-year-old girl who thinks I’m her Superman,” he said. “And I want to be that guy again.”

The opioid agonist clinic is in Interior Health’s building on Doyle Avenue.

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