Dear Barb—Hooked

Dear Barb:

Hi, my brother is addicted to opiates.  His wife and two kids have suffered extensively from his addiction, as have my parents.  He has tried many times to get off the drugs but it hasn’t worked.  He mostly lives on the streets and has no income to speak of.  He often shows up at my parent’s house in the middle of the night trying to get money.  It’s so hard for them to say no, even though they have been told by counsellors that is the right thing to do.  If they give him money, he buys drugs.  I think my brother needs to be forced into a treatment facility, but he refuses.  He says he has some friends who are on methadone and they have been successful in getting off drugs.  To me it sounds like he is trading one addiction for another.  I believe the only way to get clean is to get off all drugs.  How can I get my brother into treatment?  Another problem is my brother does not have money and as a family, we are just scraping by.  Are there any treatment facilities that are covered by OHIP? Thanks for your help, Stephanie.

Hi Stephanie:

So sorry your family is going through this all too common scenario.  Unfortunately, you cannot force your brother into treatment; he has to be ready and willing to accept help.  There are OHIP covered treatment centers, but not nearly enough of them.  There are guidelines you have to follow before you will be accepted into these treatment facilities.  The intention is for you to be sober and serious about treatment.  As well, these services can help you get into a medically supervised detox unit to get you sober.  Once you have accomplished this, you will have an appointment with a counsellor where you will be put on a waitlist until space becomes available.  During this time, you will be expected to attend meetings and outpatient therapy to maintain your sobriety.  Unfortunately, many people relapse during this waiting period.  Methadone has some value in the treatment of opiate addiction.  It’s meant for short term treatment while people are waiting to get into counseling and treatment to better understand their addiction and why they are vulnerable to it.  Methadone alleviates the uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms of opiates.  Unfortunately, some people end up staying on Methadone for long periods of time, sometimes even years, thus avoiding dealing with their addiction issues. Ultimately, they become addicted to Methadone.  While on Methadone addicts are continuing to use opiates for the high, while using Methadone to avoid the withdrawal symptoms.  Methadone definitely has use in the treatment of opiate addiction, but it is not the answer.  Perhaps the government should be putting more funding into opening up more treatment facilities rather than more Methadone clinics.  Thanks for writing in Stephanie.

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