News / Edmonton

Edmontonians second most likely to acknowledge opioid abuse as a 'crisis'

New Angus-Reid poll also shows one in eight have close friend or family member who has become dependent on opioids

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. Abuse of painkillers, heroin, fentanyl and other opioids across the country has resulted in tens of thousands of children being taken from their homes and placed in the foster care system. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Patrick Sison / AP

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. Abuse of painkillers, heroin, fentanyl and other opioids across the country has resulted in tens of thousands of children being taken from their homes and placed in the foster care system. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Edmontonians are more likely than most Canadians to acknowledge an opioid crisis in their own community, according to a new poll.

An Angus-Reid Poll on the effects of opioid abuse, released Thursday, found 19 per cent of Edmontonians view opioid abuse as a crisis close to home, second only to Vancouver among cities.

As a province, Albertans were second most likely to say it’s a provincewide crisis at 28 per cent. B.C. was far and away in the lead, at 49 per cent.

The survey also found one in eight Albertans have close friends or family members who have become dependent on opioids in the last five years, which is in line with the national average.

“It’s certainly eye opening in terms of the scope of this issue, and how many people’s lives it touches – and how many people have a personal connection to this issue that we tend to see in the news and think of as happening to other people,” research associate Ian Holliday said.

Nearty one-fifth of Albertans said they have been prescribed opioids for pain relief in the last five years.

The survey also gauged support for various strategies proposed to mitigate opioid misuse.

It found 64 per cent of Albertans support safe consumption sites, while 81 per cent support mandatory treatment programs for people who have overdosed.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse launched a nationwide study this month aimed at improving access to Suboxone as a treatment for opioid dependency.

The OPTIMA study will recruit close to 300 patients from across Canada this month and next, including nearly 40 from Edmonton, to determine whether Suboxone treatment is more effective than the harsher but more commonly used methadone, which can be addictive.

“There are issues with methadone, in the sense that it is a relatively dangerous medication,” said Dr. Ronald Lim, medical lead for Calgary’s Alberta Health Services Opioid Dependency Program.

Lim said suboxone is six times safer than methadone. Additionally, patients only take two to five days to stabilize on Suboxone, compared to three months on methadone.

The treatment also faces less rigorous regulations – only specialized physicians with special exemptions from Health Canada can prescribe methadone.

Lim hopes the results of the study will ultimately make Suboxone more accessible.

“We are hoping to change practice to have people look at Suboxone as a first-line treatment, and then consider methadone if it doesn’t work. Because it’s easy to convert somebody from Suboxone to methadone, but it’s not easy the other way around,” Lim said.

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