New Lethbridge hospital detox beds not being used by opioid users

Lethbridge agencies are still working on finding the best treatment options to help opioid users detox.

The Lethbridge Recovery Centre at Chinook Regional Hospital (CRH) opened its doors two months ago, offering detox services for anyone addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Even with the seriousness of opioids, though, drug users who mostly consume them over other drugs aren’t being treated at the centre.


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“If someone comes to us looking for detox from one of the opioids, our role is really to connect them with an opioid replacement therapy organization or program,” said Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) director of addictions and mental health facilities for the South Zone, Thomas Mountain.

Data for the eight beds at CRH shows they’ve averaged less than 50 per cent occupancy in their first eight weeks.

Mountain said the centre isn’t the right place for opioid detox, because those patients are at a higher risk of a relapse due to a lower tolerance.

“If they happen to relapse after they leave a detox program, the increased risk of death or overdose or even contraction of HIV and hepatitis is quite significantly raised,” he said.

The recovery centre will soon offer opioid agonist treatment, which AHS said is a safer way of treating opioid users with suboxone and methadone.

ARCHES isn’t sure how many people will use the facility, though, noting it isn’t in the best location.

“Their perceptions of how they’ve been treated within those systems haven’t always been the best. So I think there might be a little bit of reluctance there even for when eventually they do start providing those services,” said Director of Operations Jill Manning.

AHS said the fears of letting people out of treatment and onto the street will be nixed.

Mountain said patients detoxing from opioids will be held at the centre for five to 10 days, before being sent to a community-based program.

“We may see wait lists, but we’re certainly as a health system building a lot more places that people can access suboxone as part of their care,” he said.

AHS said there is no set date for when opioid agonist treatment will be available at the centre.

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