Prescription opioid project aims to minimize overdose deaths

While the number of deaths from illicit drug overdoses are down around the province, advocates in Kamloops, B.C., continue to look for innovative ways to save lives. 

A pilot project is set to begin next week for people who suffer from opioid dependency. They will be able to access clean, prescription Dilaudid pills, similar to a program that launched in 2019 in Vancouver

“Almost all the drug supply on the street has fentanyl,” ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. 

The program is designed for individuals who have not been successful with other forms of treatment, such as taking methadone or suboxone. 

Participants in the pilot project will get a prescription written by a physician, then the prescription will be sent to a pharmacy, which will dispense the medication to ASK Wellness nurses. The nurses will be administering the medication to individual participants. 

The opioids will come in a pill format, so it can be taken orally or crushed and injected. Access to the prescription drugs will be available seven days a week, and there will be a nurse or a support person available to guide patients through the process. 

Hughes said 35 people have been identified to participate in the project. 

Success of the program won’t necessarily be based on how many people get clean. In fact, Hughes said it’s time to rethink the notion that people have to quit using drugs in order to be successful. 

“Many folks still struggle with tobacco consumption or misuse drinking. They still go and do their jobs. They still support their families. They still have relationships,” he said. “People don’t necessarily have to stop using something.”

At the six and 12 month mark, a review of the program will be conducted to find out if there has been a reduction in overdoses, whether participants were able to find stable housing and whether or not the program has had any impact on crime in the community. 

This is the second project like this in B.C. In 2019. A similar program was launched in Vancouver.

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