A new report shows First Nations people in Alberta are three times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the rest of the province's population.
Statistics from Alberta Health Services (AHS) shows aboriginal people in this province have died from opioid overdoses at a rate three times that of the rest of the Alberta population. A report compiled by AHS and the Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre (A link to that report can be found here: REPORT) indicates First Nations people are also twice as likely to be prescribed an opioid. Dr. Susan Christensen is a physician who has a medical practice in Levern on the Blood Reserve. She tells our radio station there are a few ways, she feels, to get a better handle on things. She says first off, doctors need to become better educated in the nature of opioid dependence as well as better precribers. She says the final piece is opioid replace therapy which includes medications like Saboxone and Mathadone. She notes about 30% of her patients using Suboxone had prescription drug addictions. Dr. Christenson says Saboxone takes away the withdrawls and cravings of certain drugs and doesn't make a person high. Dr. Christenson says many people in the past were prescribed opioids to deal with various levels of pain, whether that be physical or otherwise and those opioids provided a short-term relief from that pain. However, after only a few weeks people can develop a dependency. She says she deals with patients everyday on the Blood Reserve who unknowingly developed an opioid dependency because of over prescribing. Dr. Christenson says there is pressure on doctors to become better prescribers, but in some cases that could also put some patients into withdrawl, making them fall into using illicit drugs such as fentanyl.- Pat Siedlecki
Dr. Susan Christenson: