What does Manitoba need to do to address the opioid crisis?

An open letter Drug Awareness Day Participants in Winnipeg Manitoba:

Mothers and Fathers of children addicted to drugs of any kind live with a constant fear – the fear of losing their child to overdose. I am one Mother, of many, to have lost a child. My son, Adam, died from a Fentanyl overdose – he was 27 years old.

Adam struggled for six years trying to get appropriate help for his opiate addiction from the limited resources available in Winnipeg. Adam wanted to escape his addiction and tried to do so many times. Our health care system was not prepared for the opiate crisis, and therefore not prepared to help him appropriately.

We ask ourselves “how does a young man like Adam even begin taking drugs”, drugs that are so dangerous? I believe that, often, our youth begin to take drugs to fit in. They may suffer from self esteem and anxiety issues. As we know, mental health and addiction often go hand in hand. Those that suffered abuse or homelessness may turn to drugs. Doctors have over-prescribed opiates and have not appropriately monitored the patient using these strong pain killers.

I am pleased that events like this can be a catalyst for change. It is an opportunity to share the resources and the knowledge that we have in Manitoba to respond to this urgent crisis in opiate addiction.

Trying to navigate the system for help with addiction was, at the time, the most frustrating and exhausting part of trying to get help for my son. Since my son’s death I have gone on the AFM website and must say that the improvements are wonderful - will the call made on the Helpline be the same?

I must impress upon our government the need to support our agencies and work in partnership to:

  • provide the training and awareness to improve our understanding of opiate addiction to work with compassion or expertise.
  • recognise that parents and family can often be an integral part of the process and need to be informed when they are actively involved. Decisions for treatment should not be left solely to the addict, as their brains are incapable of making that kind of judgement.
  • provide training and support for family Doctors to treat and prescribe treatments such as Suboxone, or access proper medical detox opportunities.

Emergency waiting rooms had intolerably long wait times. When an addict is crashing and wanting to detox they need immediate help. The health care professionals do not have the appropriate knowledge of, or access to, resources to deal with the opiate crisis.

Methadone programs lack the proper supports for success and have long wait times for assessments and entrance into the program. Once enrolled, something as simple as extended hours of operation would be of benefit to clients who are maintaining employment. Counselling and on-site therapy is also required to retrain the brain.

There is only one detox centre in Winnipeg (Main Street Project) and it is non-medical. It was very difficult for my son to be in that setting.

I want to thank the AFM for bringing awareness today and all the other agencies that are here this week. The more we can do to collectively to combat this terrible epidemic the better for this generation.

Christine Dobbs
Winnipeg Manitoba