Addiction has many faces. In Vancouver, the most visible of those is on the street.
Historically, it’s been alcoholism that we’ve heard about.
In part three of our mini-series on addiction, we talk about a creeping problem that’s taking the country by storm, and is far better at hiding itself away: Prescription drugs.
Marshall Smith with the Cedars at Cobble Hill recovery centre says behind alcohol abuse, it’s the number two addiction problem we face as a society.
Hiding in plain sight
Smith says part of the problem with the prescription drug epidemic is that we don’t want to see it.
“It starts off with a denial of the problem within the household, not wanting to believe that this is happening. We don’t like to confront the fact that we’re powerless against something, that we can’t get out of a situation.”
Smith says the problem is getting worse because doctors are either improperly prescribing or monitoring opiate painkillers. He says many people are legitimately prescribed these drugs after a surgery or injury, but become dependent.
In some cases, that’s because they’re genetically predisposed to addiction. The problem? We have no way of testing who those people might be.
“We don’t have a litmus test, we don’t have a way to say you can’t use these. The only way we find out is when you become addicted.”
But he says there is a light at the end of that tunnel – the body representing B.C.’s doctors has agreed to a recommendation in the recent Together, we can do this report calling for better use of the system.
“I would think this is where we would want to be pouring money into the system.”
Smith says another battle in the war on prescription drug abuse involves youth, who often start experimenting as early as 14 years old. If a family has a history of addiction it’s crucial to start that conversation early.
But he says the bigger problem is that once young people do get hooked, there’s no where for them to go.
Smith says B.C. has just one inpatient recovery program for young men, the Last Door recovery centre, with only 10 beds.
He says it’s not enough.
And he says working to improve the options could even go a long way to helping resolve some of the troubles with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“While certainly there does seem to be some difficulties going on in that ministry – I don’t think it’s just a failure of the social work aspect. It is a failure of places for these kids to go to get treatment for the healthcare problem they have.”