More family doctors should be trained to help drug-addicted patients: B.C. study

Train family doctors to help addicts: study

VANCOUVER — A study by the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is calling for more doctors across Canada to be formally trained to diagnose and treat patients addicted to drugs.

Dr. Evan Wood, co-author of the study published in the current edition of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, said there’s a greater awareness that for many people, addiction is a chronic disease that must be treated with evidence-based medicine, the same as heart disease or any other condition.

“We’re just sort of learning and trying to unpack the mystery that some people will go into long-term recovery and never go back, whereas for other people it ends up being a fatal disease and they can never put it down. In many cases it’s because people haven’t accessed good treatment.”

Statistics from the BC Coroners Service show there were 371 drug overdose deaths between January and June of this year, about 60 per cent of which were tied to fentanyl, a powerful pain killer.

Wood said the prevalence of addiction means treatment must be integrated in the primary care setting where family doctors are trained to help patients who may need further care from specially trained physicians.

There are about 25 addiction-care providers in British Columbia based on their accreditation with the American Board of Addiction Medicine, the study said. There is no formal system of accreditation in Canada.

Wood, who is accredited through the American board, said one-year fellowship programs in addiction medicine are offered in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

“British Columbia is ahead in that our addiction medicine training program is the largest in North America,” Wood said.

He said 13 doctors took part this year in the fellowship program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, where addictions training is also offered to nurses and social workers who visit detox centres, recovery programs and primary-care clinics where drugs are prescribed as part of addiction care.

“We’re really trying to look at what are the structural reasons that addiction care has really behind in terms of what’s available for patients and families and really trying to address some of those structural barriers head on.”

The need for specially trained health-care providers is even more dire in rural and remote areas, he said, adding opioid addiction needs to be treated in the primary-care setting in all areas because too many patients are ending up in emergency departments and leaving without referrals elsewhere for follow-up care.

Jennifer Woodside, whose 21-year-old son Dylan Bassler died in April 2014 from an overdose of counterfeit oxycontin laced with fentanyl, said family doctors may be the first health professionals to whom patients disclose their addictive behaviour so extra education that enables physicians to screen and manage people could benefit those who may not seek further help.

“They really haven’t been trained in that area,” said Woodside, who co-founded a group called Moms United and Mandated to Saving the lives of Drug Users, or mumsDU, to advocate for increased awareness about the dangers of drugs such as fentanyl.

Dr. Francine Lemire, executive director and CEO of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, said she supports the study’s recommendations to invest in addiction training at medical schools, along with continuing medical education for health professionals dealing with the issue.

“If we are serious about the extent and depth of this societal problem, early screening, diagnosis and treatment are key,” Lemire said in a statement.

Lemire said the college will recognize physicians who acquire enhanced skills with a certificate of added  competence and anticipated the review process to be completed over the next 12 to 18 months.

— Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Editor’s view: A Hopeful start to the community’s first 10 km run

Good mix of pomp and circumstance, variable terrain and silliness at Sunday’s run

Lower Mainland could see spring flurries

Snow expected at higher elevations

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

VIDEO: Olympic medalist teaches swimming in Hope

Brent Hayden fondly remembers local swim meet from his youth

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

Canucks find scoring touch in 5-2 win over Blackhawks

Four Vancouver skaters have two points apiece in victory over Chicago

‘Not well thought out:’ Arizona family slams B.C. speculation tax

American family spends half the year in vacation home on Vancouver Island

Family of B.C. wildfire victim wants better emergency preparedness for vulnerable people

Williams Lake’s David Jeff “fell through the cracks”

Senate backs bill to legalize recreational marijuana

Justin Trudeau reminded senators that his government was elected on a promise to legalize pot

Where Canadians buy real estate abroad: report

Hot Spots: Top 30 home-buying destinations for Canadians in the Americas

Ban on grizzly bear hunt, new rules take effect April 1

Taxidermists, tanners will have to report on any grizzly bears or parts brought to them

Ontario father grief stricken over murder of ex-wife and children

‘No words to explain,’ grieving father of slain teens says in statement

Most Read