In the News

April 16, 2019

What we know about how safe cannabis is for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

Daily or near daily use of cannabis during pregnancy increases the risk of adverse outcomes, including low birth weight and negative effects on cognition and behavior in children and adolescents, which persists into early adulthood. Currently, there is research looking at the health outcomes associated with different modes of consumption and  using cannabis while breastfeeding.

April 12, 2019

Experts worry that looser Ontario alcohol laws may encourage disky drinking

Ontario’s conservative government has proposed to change the laws regarding alcohol. The new rules would allow municipalities to permit the consumption of alcohol in parks, allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol starting at 9:00am and expand the sale of alcohol into corner stores. “If they were going to do this, the reasonable thing to do would be to increase resources for treatment of alcohol and addiction. None of that was in the budget.”

March 31, 2019

“What we used to learn”: Mental health treatment for Indigenous youth must draw on tradition, advocates say

A spokesperson with Indigenous Services Canada said the federal government is working with First Nations to develop culturally minded solutions to addiction and mental health issues.

March 29, 2019

Ontario continuing to build a connected mental health and addictions treatment system

"This announcement is part of our commitment to invest $3.8 billion over the next 10 years to finally develop and implement a comprehensive, connected and integrated mental health and addictions treatment strategy, centred around patients, family and caregivers,"

March 29, 2019

Stress a key driver of substance abuse

“We’re caught in our emotional brain. What we’re trying to do is no longer solve problems, what we’re trying to do is actually manage our emotions. And when we’re trying to manage our emotions, what do some people do to feel good under stress? Self-medicate.”

March 22, 2019

New Vancouver detox centre serves as a reflection of how attitudes around substance abuse have evolved

When illicit fentanyl swept the province several years ago, there was a large increase in overdose deaths. Detox management had to adapt to reflect both the evolving best practices in treating opioid-use disorder and the toxicity of a fentanyl-poisoned drug supply and its implications for those who relapse.

March 17, 2019

“Wake up, step up”: Protestors outside Hamilton prison demand change

Group rally outside the Hamilton-Wentworth Dentention Centre, with their lost loved ones on their minds, demanding changes to the correctional system. 

March 13, 2019

Hamilton public health looks to “Plan B” for supervised injection site

Hamilton’s public health department is asking city counsellors to back an application for a permanent supervised injection site as the death toll continues to mount.

March 12, 2019

Ex-military couple helps vets, first-responders back in step

Dupee and his wife, Angel, are the co-founders of Cadence Health and Wellness which provides mental health treatment and support for veterans and their families. The progress that Dupee has made with his own therapy gives him to ability to recognize the symptoms of PTSD in others and relate to their suffering.

March 09, 2019

U of Guelph study suggests new way to treat drug addiction

The study revealed how the brain links a person’s surroundings with the drugs they are dependent on. It was discovered that the brain would react the saw way as if the animal had been given a drug when reintroduced into the same environment.

March 07, 2019

Study finds association between vaping and cardiovascular problems

A new study has found an association between vaping and negative cardiovascular health outcomes, including increased risk of having a heart attack, developing coronary artery disease, or experiencing depression.

February 13, 2019

Smoking Cannabis in your teens IS linked to depression in later life

This large meta-analysis study found that cannabis use as a teen is linked to depression and suicide as an adult. Cannabis was found to be able to impair a brain and trigger mental health disorders later in life.

February 13, 2019

Street drug found in Toronto linked to overdose deaths worldwide: Health Canada

A synthetic opioid linked to overdose deaths around the world has been found for the first time in Ontario. The white powder was found in a west-end Toronto home in late 2018. A sample was sent to a Health Canada drug analysis las where it was identified as a new synthetic opioid called U-48800.

February 13, 2019

The Big Trip: How psychedelic drugs are changing lives and transforming psychiatry

Drugs like LSD and MDMA are undergoing a radical transformation, from party drug to a potentially revolutionary treatment tool. Clinical trials are examining psychedelic drug therapy as a possible treatment for everything from PTSD to cigarette addiction.

February 04, 2019

In a Brantford Tim Hortons, the toll of the opioid crisis is in full view

As temperatures dipped, many regulars of this 24-hour Tim Hortons took a seat in the corner to share their stories. Just about all of them knew someone who had died of an overdose and several had overdosed themselves, being saved by naloxone. Their accounts testify not just to the toll of the opioid crisis, but to the complex ways substance and alcohol use is intertwined with the effects of trauma and childhood abuse.

January 23, 2019

Canada’s new food guide takes a tougher stance on alcohol

While in 2007, the Canadian food guide used alcohols high calorie and sugar content as reasons to limit alcohol intake, the new food guide notes the increased risk of many types of cancer and other serious health conditions, the hospitalizations and deaths attributed to alcohol and the importance of following Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines as important reasons as to why one should limit alcohol intake.

January 22, 2019

More Ontarians say they’re struggling with mental health, CAMH survey shows

Ten per cent of respondents rated their own mental health as fair or poor, 11.7 per cent of respondents reported experiencing frequent mental distress and 4.1 per cent reported having thoughts of suicide, all of which have increased from the previous survey.

January 17, 2019

U.S doctors have a new opioid addiction treatment in their arsenal- it could be here next

Sublocade is a slow-release medication, taken monthly through an injection, designed to ward off opioid cravings. "I don't think it would be an understatement to suggest that this is the medication that would turn the tide of the opioid epidemic," said Dr. David Clements, a psychiatrist based out of Philadelphia.

January 07, 2019

The Common pill that’s killing in the shadow of the opioid crisis

When benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are combined with opioids, the consequences can be lethal.

June 22, 2018

Hamilton Public Health Alert - Blue Heroin

"Public Health Services has received multiple reports of overdoses attributed to “Blue Heroin”, a highly toxic fentanyl laced heroin, circulating the community.  This serves as an important reminder to the community that street drugs continue to be cut (mixed) with substances such as fentanyl.

There is no easy way to know what is in your drugs. You can't see it, smell it or taste it. Substances such as fentanyl and carfentanil can be cut (mixed) with other drugs. Even a very small amount can cause an overdose."

June 20, 2018

Trudeau says pot will be legal as of Oct. 17, 2018

"Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadians will be able to consume marijuana recreationally without criminal penalties starting on Oct. 17, 2018 — many months later than the government's initial target date."

June 15, 2018

Rapid access clinic for opioid addiction opens in Hamilton

"St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton has introduced a new piece of the city’s harm reduction strategy for those battling opioid or alcohol addiction.

A rapid access addiction medicine (RAAM) clinic opened its doors on Charlton Avenue East and James Street South on Monday. The idea behind RAAM is to make recovery methods as accessible as the drugs at the centre of the addiction. RAAM offers an opportunity to see an addictions worker who can provide an assessment, develop a treatment plan and hopefully streamline access to a doctor who can provide opioid treatment therapy or if necessary, a community partner offering other relevant services.

The clinic is considered “low-barrier” because a client seeking addictions treatment can make an appointment at the clinic by way of self-referral over the phone."

June 05, 2018

Take a look inside Hamilton's first overdose prevention site

"The official opening of small, simple space marks a major step in the city's move toward harm reduction as a way of treating addiction, by providing a physical location where addicts can use drugs under supervision and access clean needles and other safe injection tools.  

The site, which will be run by the Shelter Health Network in partnership with Hamilton Urban Core CHC, comes after it was approved by the province and given enough funding for six months back in May.  

A team of advocates has been fighting for months to set up a site to respond to the city's growing opioid crisis, which Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk said includes 87 people who died of opioid poisoning in 2017, compared to 52 the year before."

May 08, 2018

Hamilton's first overdose prevention site has a home — if the province signs off

"In the midst of an opioid crisis, the Shelter Health Network has spent weeks trying to find a temporary site where people can safely inject drugs under the supervision of health professionals. Until now, the search has been variously foiled by landlord reluctance and municipal zoning regulations. That changed last week when the network reached an agreement with Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre to use space at 71 Rebecca St., confirmed network lead physician Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk on Friday. Provincial approval and funding is still required."

March 26, 2018

Ottawa making it easier for doctors to prescribe methadone and heroin

"The federal government is taking steps to make it easier for doctors to prescribe methadone and pharmaceutical grade heroin.

​Right now health care providers, from physicians to pharmacists, must apply for an exemption to prescribe, sell or provide methadone with approval from Health Canada. Now, the federal government will introduce regulatory amendments to lift this requirement and allow health care providers to administer methadone treatment without an exemption.

The federal government is also planning to loosen restrictions around how to, and who can, prescribe pharmaceutical heroin, or diacetylmorphine, a drug often used to treat pain in a hospital setting. But it has also been known to help people with addictions who do not respond to other types of treatment, such as methadone and suboxone.

 

Currently, diacetylmorphine can only be administered in a hospital. People with addictions who may need more than one dose a day find it difficult to make several trips to a hospital, especially if they are working. The federal government plans to introduce changes to the regulations that will allow heroin to be prescribed outside of a hospital, perhaps in treatment facilities or substance use disorder clinics. The changes will also allow nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug if they are allowed to under provincial laws."

March 14, 2018

Legal cannabis is coming. Let’s make sure we’re educated about the risks.

"We need to be sure we understand the complexities and nuances of increased cannabis use in order to protect youth and people with mental health disorders and to implement programs that mitigate potentially harmful effects.

Rates of cannabis use in [Canada] are among the highest in the world. A 2013 study found that one in four Canadian youth had used cannabis that year, and as much as 28 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds reported using it – the highest rate among developed countries. Cannabis use usually begins in adolescence – just when most psychiatric disorders start to show up. Evidence from the United States shows that cannabis legalization may increase youth access.

In the wider population, cannabis use is associated with lower motivation, problematic use of other substances and poorer psychiatric outcomes for people with psychosis and mood and anxiety disorders. Rates of cannabis use disorder (CUD) are 2 to 3 per cent and may be rising. And studies suggest that people with mental health and addictive disorders have higher rates of cannabis use and CUD than the general population.

Legal cannabis is coming. Improved mental health literacy should come with it."

February 28, 2018

​How communities of interest are connecting physicians: CMA creates new grant

"The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes communities of interest can play an important role in building towards our vision of a vibrant profession, and a healthy population. As part of our CMA 2020 strategy, we want to foster the work of these communities, through the CMA Communities of Interest Grants. Grant recipients will receive targeted funding, coaching and other support, and grants will be available to support an existing community of interest, or to create a new one. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more information about grant criteria, and how to apply. Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca."

January 11, 2018

Gangs preparing for pot legalization by hooking users on meth

When cannabis becomes legal in Canada on July 1, it means that people who deal drugs will lose a piece of their market. Former gang members and drug users said it has pushed those dealers to hook users on harder drugs, like meth, to try to find another profit avenue.

December 26, 2017

Year In Review 2017: Opioid Crisis Catch-22

After a series of deaths at the end of July and a meeting with the mayor, the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance pitched a tent in Moss Park and set up the city’s first overdose prevention site. To date the Moss Park site, referred to as "The Tent," has reversed 121 overdoses. The Tent operates six hours a day and relies on 170 volunteers and community donations for support, including from CUPE Ontario, which helped them acquire the heated trailer they now operate out of. More than $50,000 has been contributed by people who have been affected by loss, from unions, marijuana dispensaries, arena hockey leagues, politicians, and artists and musicians, among others. 

 

Written by Zoë Dodd, a member of the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

December 04, 2017

Board of health says yes to supervised injection site for Hamilton

In 2016, 43 people died in Hamilton due to accidental opioid poisoning, which is above the provincial average. That number has more than quadrupled since 2002. As a result, the board of health voted to endorse a report that recommends the city should have at least one supervised injection site. The report says a safer site should be in the lower city, located in the area flanked by Queen Street, Barton Street, Ferguson Avenue and Main Street. The study also says additional sites should eventually be considered, with an eye to the east end and the Mountain.

December 03, 2017

Crystal Meth Use Exploding in Hamilton

"Though the city's focus of late is centred firmly on the opioid crisis, crystal meth use in Hamilton has skyrocketed in recent years. Fentanyl commands increased attention because of the sheer number of people who are dying from overdoses, but crystal meth, blooming in its wake, still poses a serious danger.

 

In a new city study about drug use and the feasibility of a supervised injection site in Hamilton, a survey of 106 people said the most frequently injected drug they used was crystal meth, followed by hydromorphone and then cocaine."

October 30, 2017

There are medications that can treat alcoholism, but doctors rarely use them

"Excessive alcohol use is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. Some 88,000 Americans died of alcohol-related causes every year between 2006 and 2010, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s far higher than the latest numbers of annual deaths from drug overdoses (64,000), breast cancer (42,000) or prostate cancer (28,000). Surveys suggest that more than 15 million American adults suffer from alcohol dependence or abuse within a given year.

Numerous treatment options exist for people who drink to an unhealthy degree, including 12-step programs and inpatient rehabilitation centers. Many patients and health-care providers are less likely to be aware that medications can also help treat alcohol use disorder.

  • Naltrexone has become well known over the past few years as an option for people with opioid addiction; it also seems to blunt alcohol cravings and the pleasurable effects of drinking in some people.

  • Acamprosate also may help decrease alcohol consumption, although the mechanisms by which it achieves this remain unclear.

  • Disulfiram, also known as Antabuse, can be used to disrupt the metabolism of alcohol, making patients feel ill if they drink and therefore discouraging alcohol consumption. (Because of these effects, many patients stop taking the medication or need constant encouragement to continue.)

  • And new medications may be on the way. Research suggests that some drugs long used by physicians to treat seizures and other ailments — among them gabapentin and topiramate — may be effective for treating alcohol use disorder as well."

September 15, 2017

Hamilton overdoses surging, 29 people OD in just 10 days

Hamilton is seeing a steep rise in 911 calls for suspected overdoses. Between Sept. 1 - 10, people called 911 for suspected opioid overdoses 29 times. That's compared to 40 overdose calls in the entire month of August.

As a precaution, public health is increasing access to naloxone and adding more service hours to The Van needle syringe program.

Public health is also warning that the city is getting reports about fentanyl-laced methamphetamine that's circulating on the streets.

September 05, 2017

Manslaughter charges for drug dealer

Dealers have typically been charged with trafficking or possession. Now, harsher charges like manslaughter are being handed out over the spike in death rates from opioids.

August 22, 2017

Toronto's first safe injection site opens!

After years of advocating for the harm reduction intervention of providing a safe space to inject, recover and learn about treatment options, the first safe injection site opens its doors.

August 21, 2017

Cannabis as a treatment for Opiate addiction?

An unexpected intervention for a epidemic that does not discriminate. But, a treatment at what cost?

August 02, 2017

How Changing The Language Of Addiction Affects Policy And Treatment

"With addiction such a prominent problem, experts say it's time to use words that don't carry judgment. Studies show that saying "addiction" instead of "substance abuse," and "person with substance abuse disorder" instead of "junkie," affects the treatment patients receive, as well as public policy."

August 01, 2017

Changing nicotine doses in cigarettes?

Will changing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes decrease the addiction potential? The US is looking at decreasing amounts of nicotine, in hopes of decreasing addiction

August 01, 2017

Police thought they were dying after fentanyl contact

Two police officers share their experience of accidentally inhaling fentanyl.

July 24, 2017

Doctor urges weed-wary colleagues to prescribe pot, not opioids for pain relief

A Windsor, Ont., doctor is urging his colleagues to embrace marijuana as a pain treatment option because he is overwhelmed with patients seeking alternatives to addictive opioids. Dr. Christopher Blue is one of a few local doctors prescribing medical marijuana — other doctors refer patients to him — and a waiting list that was once two weeks has now stretched to eight months.

There are few studies on the effectiveness of medical marijuana, but the available research shows cannabis can ease chronic neuropathic pain, including results from Montreal researchers published in 2010.

Their findings, which were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed patient pain decreased with higher-potency marijuana.

David Jensen, a spokesperson for Ontario's ministry of health, said medical marijuana is not covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan because it "has not been approved by Health Canada as a therapeutic product under the Food and Drugs Act, nor has it been submitted or reviewed through Ontario's established public drug funding review process."

July 19, 2017

Methadone Clinics in Ontario

"Scores of Ontario doctors are billing the province hundreds of thousands of dollars each to treat people addicted to opioids, according to a new study into what one critic calls the province’s burgeoning network of “McMethadone” clinics.

The top 10 per cent of methadone prescribers — 57 doctors — billed an average of $648,352 each in 2014, researchers found. Together they were looking after half the methadone population.

Each had, on average, 435 methadone patients with public drug coverage. Each billed for an average of 97 patients daily (71 of them on methadone) and each had patients return every four or five days, on average, to provide a urine sample.

According to the authors, there’s no evidence that, after the first few weeks or months of treatment “routine, ongoing weekly office visits and urine drug screens are associated with reduced substance use.”

If anything, the opposite may be true, they said."

July 07, 2017

Could prescription heroin help solve London's opioid crisis?

"The Canadian government's research arm is weeks away from proposing a nation-wide trial that could involve giving prescription heroin to drug users, one way of fighting the country's growing opioid crisis. 

London could be one of the sites where the treatment is tested because of this city's high injection drug-use rates."

May 14, 2017

Fentanyl test boosts dose-reduction rate, could lead to fewer overdoses

In Vancouver, 4 people are dying per day from drug overdose. The BC safe injection sites, called Insite, have been conducting a fentanyl testing pilot study that allows users to test a small amount of their drugs for fentanyl. It has been reported that of the over 1000 drug tests, fentanyl has been found in 83% of drugs reported to be heroin, 82% of crystal meth and in 40% of cocaine. However, there are many varieties of fentanyl, which they did not test for. Overall, testing at Insite has led to lower dosing and a 25% reduction in overdoses.

May 04, 2017

Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act Becomes Law in Canada

Many opioid related deaths are preventable if medical attention is received quickly; however, evidence shows that witnesses to an overdose often do not call 911 for fear of police involvement.

 

As a response to this crisis, Bill C-224 was passed in May of 2017. This Act provides an exemption from charges of possession of a controlled substance for people who call 911 for themselves or another person suffering from an overdose. This also applies to anyone at the scene when emergency help arrives. This does not apply to offences such as drug trafficking and driving while impaired.

January 09, 2017

Province backs and will fund supervised injection sites in Toronto

Ontario has agreed to fund supervised drug injection services in Toronto to try and combat the devastating impact the opioid crisis is making on individuals, their families and our community.

Research specific to Toronto has shown such sites would effectively serve existing clients of the health centres and would prevent drug use in public areas — alleys, coffee shop bathrooms and parks — that are today home to the hazards of discarded needles.

Additionally, statistics in the area have reflected increasing amounts of substances containing fentanyl. As people who use drugs often don’t know they are ingesting fentanyl, they are at high risk for overdose, which can halt breathing and require life-saving efforts within two or three minutes. As a result, the city is proposing a pilot project with Health Canada and hospitals so drugs can be quickly analyzed at these new safe-injection sites. This would allow these individuals to know exactly what substance(s) they are about to use and potentially use less if it contains more potent substances than expected. A similar pilot project in Vancouver Insite locations resulted in 25% less overdoses.

This is planned to be implemented and operated at three health centres, where users will inject their own illegal drugs under medical supervision. It is expected to be several months before the centres can get the required inspection and approval by Health Canada to open as Canada’s first safe-injection sites since Vancouver’s Insite launched in 2003.

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