When people think of opioid use problems or addictions, they may think of street-obtained, or "street" opioids, such as heroin or fentanyl. However, problematic opioid use can also include improperly taking prescribed opioid medications such as oxycodone, morphine or codeine, or taking an opioid medication that was not prescribed for you.
Opioids are a class of powerful drugs that are usually prescribed to treat severe pain. If opioids are abused, they can create feelings of intense pleasure or euphoria, but they can also lead to fatal overdose. Opioids are an effective medication when used as prescribed, but they carry a risk of addiction because of their powerful effects.
Both street-obtained and prescription opioids can be misused. Heroin is a common street opioid that can be snorted or smoked, though it carries the greatest risks when injected. These risks include spreading HIV or hepatitis B or C by sharing needles, skin infections, collapsed veins, bacterial infections and overdoses. People can also misuse prescription medication by crushing the pill and then chewing, snorting or injecting it.
Two main treatment options are available for opioid addiction:
Opioid agonist therapies using methadone or buprenorphine
Addiction treatment counselling (e.g., withdrawal management, day treatment, mutual aid groups such as Narcotics Anonymous).
Methadone and buprenorphine are opioid medications that do not cause intoxication at the correct doses. When they are prescribed, they eliminate a person's withdrawal symptoms, which may help them stabilize their life. Opioid addiction treatments usually involve a combination of opioid agonist therapies and addiction treatment counselling.
Dr. Saunders provides a consultation service for all substance and process addictions. Dr. Saunders accepts self referral or referral from health professionals by phone (902-404-3877) or fax (902-421-0090).
Dr. Saunders has been working in addiction medicine for over 8 years. He is a member of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Society of Addiction Medicine He practices at Direction 180 and The Open Door Clinic, and is the medical director for Crosbie House in New Minas.