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

Train family doctors to help addicts: study

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Power outages affected thousands of BC Hydro customers in the north on Jan. 14 (File photo) (File photo)
Power outages affect thousands of BC Hydro customers in northern B.C.

Transmission failure led to outages in Prince Rupert and Port Edward

A Prince Rupert port expansion project received a $25 million investment from the provincial government, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 14. Seen here is Ridley Terminals Inc., a coal export terminal in Prince Rupert (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)
$25 million government investment in Prince Rupert port expansion project

Prince Rupert port expansion project expected to create more than 2,200 jobs

For the second time in less than a year, Air Canada announced on Jan. 13 it has suspended flights on the Prince Rupert-Vancouver route as of Jan 17. (Photo by: Jerold Leblanc)
Cessation of flights to YPR will affect the municipal economy and global trade, P.R. Mayor said

Chamber of Commerce said it will aggressively pursue the resumption of flights to Prince Rupert

Air Canada has suspended flights to Prince Rupert Regional Airport due to COVID-19 mitigation, the airline announced on Jan. 13. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
YPR is not immune to plummeted air travel demands – 25 jobs lost

Prince Rupert Regional Airport flight cancellation will levee significant hardship - Rick Leach

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Most Read