Addicts Benefit From British Columbia's Methadone Program

By McCarton Ackerman 08/11/14

A new report shows that the program is saving both lives and money.

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A new report from British Columbia’s medical health officer has confirmed the methadone program throughout the province is saving both lives and money.

The findings released by Dr. Perry Kendall show the rate of death for those using Suboxone and methadone as part of opioid substitution treatment is about half of what it is for those using street heroin. The mortality rate in the treatment program is 1.1 per 100 person years, compared to 2.09 per 100 person years for those using street heroin. More than 15,700 residents throughout British Columbia are participating in the program, which marks a 66% increase from 2007 and 2008. Nearly 3,000 pharmacists and 350 pharmacists are also prescribing Suboxone and methadone.

The annual per-patient costs for these treatment programs in British Columbia is $4,200, compared to the annual $45,000 cost for those in Ontario and the U.S. who go untreated. Kendall’s report concluded by noting that “greater access to opioid substitution treatment, along with other harm reduction initiatives, has helped contribute to the lower incidence of HIV infection among people who inject drugs.”

In June 2013, a 15-year study also confirmed that the lone safe injection site in downtown Vancouver resulted in fewer people in the area using drugs and more addicts accessing methadone treatment. There was also a reduction during that period of new HIV and Hepatitis C infections related to sharing needles.

Despite this, new federal legislation has been introduced that will make it extremely difficult for similar sites to open throughout Canada. However, the country’s Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the current safe injection site could continue to operate. 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.