Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association expresses concern over province’s response to opioid crisis

The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA) has said the Alberta government’s response to the rising number of opioid poisoning deaths is “insufficient.”

In a recent letter, the EZMSA Opioid Poisoning Committee said it had reviewed recent announcements made by the province between December 4 and 8.

“I think some of the responses have important positive elements, but maybe some are not focused in the way the evidence suggests they should be,” said Dr Stan Houston, professor of medicine at the University of A. the EZMSA Opioid Poisoning Committee.

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The opioid crisis in Alberta in 2021 was devastating according to the EZMSA, which added that on average four Albertans die from overdoses every day.

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“It’s a disaster unfolding in our community,” Houston said.

Over the past week, the province announced several new measures to address the surge in opioid poisoning deaths in Alberta.

Houston is happy the province is taking action, but said there is room for improvement.

A week ago, the province announced funding for 8,000 treatment spaces – giving Albertans the ability to access treatment and recover every year, with no user fees.

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“Many Albertans have traditionally been unable to access care due to user fees and a lack of funding,” Eric Engler, press secretary to the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said in a statement. .

It’s a decision the EZMSA Opioid Poisoning Committee supports, but said treatment was not feasible for many Albertans.

“At any given time, there is probably a fairly low proportion of people at risk who are ready, willing and able to engage in this type of treatment,” explained Houston.

“There is really no good evidence for the effectiveness (of treatment in a hospital setting) in people addicted to opiates. “

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Houston noted that it wasn’t just a drug addiction problem, the main concern was a toxic supply, something he said the association really wants to tackle.

“What has really changed dramatically over the past two years, other than COVID-19, is fentanyl. It’s much more powerful and it’s unpredictable.

The province has already said it will form a group of MPs to look at the pros and cons of prescribing drugs to people who use drugs.

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There is also growing criticism of the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS).

It is an app that alerts first responders if a person using substances no longer responds to a preset timer.

The province has so far said there have been more than 650 downloads with more than 230 registered users.

“The DORS app works as expected and provides an answer to those who need it,” Engler added.

“As this is a confidential and anonymous service, we will not comment further on its use at this time. To be clear, the app is proven technology and succeeds in achieving its purpose.

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Houston said there were data issues and there was no indication it was working.

“I really like to have results to show that it is safe and effective, which is not there right now,” said Houston.

“We would really like to have this information at a fairly granular geographic level, so that we know where the problems are, where interventions are best placed and that has clearly been lacking.”

The province’s statement also acknowledged that “drug addiction involves more than just the use of opioids and includes other substances and processes.”

“The Government of Alberta is completely focused on treating addiction as a health problem and ensuring that Albertans have access to a comprehensive system of care. It includes everything from prevention, harm reduction and intervention to treatment and recovery, ”the province said.

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