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Jan 22

Grass Roots Efforts to Battle the Opioid Crisis

Two recent news stories show that there are many ways of battling the opioid crisis. Former BC Minister for Health, Terry Lake, has recently stated he believes that marijuana could play a part in harm reduction, and could help people come off opioids. The Roshni Clinic is a medical clinic in BC and a social services office in Alberta working to provide support to those in the South Asian community affected by drugs and alcohol.

Marijuana an Option for Opioid Reduction?

Terry Lake was the Health Minister for BC during the time of declaring a public health emergency amid the fentanyl crisis and is now working as a vice president at a Quebec based medical cannabis company. He says further research is required, but some preliminary studies show that marijuana can help those with opioid addictions. Some studies have looked at reduced opioid death rates in US states that have legalized marijuana. A Canadian paper on medical cannabis patients showed that there was 63% decrease in prescription drug use and 30% decrease in opiate use.

South Asian Focused Clinic Helping Opioid Users

Fraser Health, one of BC’s health authorities, has opened The Roshni Clinic in response to the need for culturally sensitive care and services in Punjab and Hindi. Thirty percent of the population in Surrey, BC is Punjabi speaking. Often people need to bring along family members to act as translators, which is not always ideal. Alberta provided more than half a million dollars to increase funding to the Punjabi Community Health Services in Calgary and it is hoped that the BC government will increase their commitment.

In the Alberta office, they are focusing on providing culturally tailored counselling, as well as distributing naloxone kits. The Roshni Clinic is part of the existing South Asian Clinic at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey. There they offer a number of services including medical management of withdrawal symptoms, individual counselling, relapse prevention, and group and family education.

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Infographic source

Looking at South Asian communities across Canada, the CEO of Punjabi Community Health Services in Ontario, Baldev Mutta, sees the opioid addiction taking root in truck and taxi drivers. These men are offered thousands of dollars to transport drugs across the country. This can lead to forming an addiction as they need to take these stimulants to meet the extreme deadlines. Sometimes it happens the other way around. They are pressured into taking stimulants by other drivers and end up becoming drug runners to pay for their addiction. Either way, expanding resources and reducing the stigma within the community will hopefully help curb the opioid addiction crisis.

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