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At-home detox provides discreet treatment for opioid-addiction in Vancouver

Vancouver Coastal Health's START program helps people access treatment for opioid addiction in their own homes

Abuse of painkillers like OxyContin can lead to addiction of harder opioids.

Toby Talbot / The Associated Press

Abuse of painkillers like OxyContin can lead to addiction of harder opioids.

It has been a little over a year since Vancouver Coastal Health started offering at-home detox services to drug users and have helped 329 people so far.

One healthcare worker and her husband, a tradesman, were addicted to opioids for years before finding a treatment program that would let them detox in the privacy of their own home.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) refers to them by the pseudonyms 'Sandy' and 'Dave' in a press release in order to protect their identity.

"We also felt we would lose our jobs if our employers knew about our drug use, because there's still so much stigma," said Sandy.

The pair are one of 329 people who have recieved care from the Substance use Treatment and Response Team (START) since its launch in August 2016. The program helps people from a wide range of backgrounds, including teachers, construction workers, and people with disabilities, said Mary Marlow, manager of mental health and substance use at VCH.

"Many of our clients are employed and struggling with addiction ... for many, residential detox is not an option because of the associated stigma," she said.

Making treatment as accessible as possible for drug users from all walks of life is saving lives, said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

"The sooner people with substance use problems can get the help they need when they are ready, the better their chances of success. Offering home visits where people addicted to opioids get access to medication treatment right away, makes getting help quick and easy, and save lives by reducing the risk of overdose," she said.

The START program has the capacity to treat 400 people per year. So far, the service is only available to Vancouver residents who have access to stable and substance-free housing.

"My husband got hooked on opioids nearly a decade ago after being prescribed painkillers for a workplace injury. I started using drugs while I was struggling with depression," said Sandy.

Almost nine out of every 10 overdose deaths happen inside -- in homes, hotels, or other residences where passersby cannot see that someone needs medical treatment, according to the health authority.

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