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Privacy problems with methadone bylaw: Priddy

Surrey's proposed methadone bylaw is frightening people who fear being exposed by bylaw officers, says Coun. Penny Priddy.

"I don't feel comfortable with a bylaw officer having confidential health records," said Priddy, a former B.C. health minister. "What if a person is employed by the city?

"This goes down a very slippery slope of violating people's rights."

Surrey's bylaw would force methadone users to take the drug in front of the dispensing pharmacist in order to reduce "illegal drug trafficking in methadone."

The most controversial section would allow bylaw officers to "inspect the records retained by the pharmacist," including the patient's name and doctor's instructions.

That clause has been criticized by B.C. Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis, who urged Surrey this week "not to proceed with the bylaw at this time."

But Mayor Doug McCallum said that Surrey intends to bring a bylaw forward on Monday for first, second and third readings.

"That will be our response," he said. "Methadone pharmacies are causing us major problems."

Up to a dozen stand-alone dispensaries are located in a four-block area of downtown Whalley, which has long been plagued by drugs and crime. It has been targeted for a block-by-block cleanup.

"There is a growing body of evidence that some methadone prescriptions given for off-premises consumption end up feeding the consumption of other drugs and causing death or injury from methadone overdoses," says a report to council.

Priddy said she realizes some people abuse their carry-away prescriptions.

"I realize it's frustrating, but this is not a well-thought-out strategy," she said, suggesting the College of Pharmacists of B.C. can deal with disciplining dispensaries, if needed.

Methadone clinic slated to open

Calgary's first methadone clinic is scheduled to open in two months.

The closest clinic right now is in Red Deer.

People who are addicted to heroin and morphine go to the clinic to take methadone - it helps them get off those drugs.

Tonight, in the first part of a two part series, Louie Koutis takes a look at the need for such a clinic in our city.

Also tonight, a Calgary man shares memories of his brother who died in the last Gulf war.

Official advocates methadone to fight perscription drug abuse in municipality

A rising prescription drug abuse problem in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has prompted a call for the Department of Health to offer methadone in a bid to treat such addictions.

"It is time to talk about a solution. It is time to talk about methadone," says Christine Porter, project co-ordinator for the Sharp Advice Needle Exchange, based in Sydney.

In a letter to the editor and subsequent interview with the Cape Breton Post, Porter says methadone is currently only used as a treatment drug by doctors and in the regional detoxification unit and not to help addicts manage their addictions.

"The fact of the matter is that you can't take away an individual's coping mechanism without offering something in its place."

Spokespersons for the Health Department and the local detoxification centre were not available for comment Monday.

While a variety of prescription medications are being abused, the two most common being encountered by police and health workers like Porter are Dilaudid and oxycodone - better known by its trade name, OxyContin.

"It starts out as a pain management drug for injuries from car accidents and slips and falls and can quickly turn into a nightmare for the individual and their family," says Porter.

She says her service - which allows addicts to exchange and dispose of old needles for new ones - is seeing more and more new intravenous drug users who had never before been involved in the drug culture but have suddenly found themselves addicted to Dilaudid and oxycodone.

"We are seeing everyone from the June Cleavers to the hard core drug addicts," says Porter, predicting the problem of abuse is only going to grow.

Residents in the regional municipality are becoming all too familiar with the effects of such addictions, as two individuals were recently sentenced to federal prison terms for crimes they blamed on addiction to oxycodone. One was sentenced to six years while the second received two years.

"I see this as a growing problem," says Porter, adding the community is going to have to come together to find a solution.

Oxycodone is used to treat moderate to severe pain and the manufacturer advises that individuals using the drug take caution when it comes to driving or operating machinery as it may cause drowsiness or dizziness.

It is also advised that the pills not be crushed, chewed or otherwise broken open as it can cause too much of the drug to be released into the bloodstream.

But Porter says that is exactly what addicts are doing, noting the high is akin to heroin, which is why police in the United States have labelled the drug "hillbilly heroin."

In 1995, when oxycodone was first introduced in the U.S., sales equalled $55 million. Last year, sales totalled more than $1 billion. In 1995, Canadian doctors issued 600 prescriptions for the drug while last year a total of 126,000 were written, compared to 6.5 million written in the U.S.

Porter says while some addicts are saying they want help to deal with their addictions, they are confronted with bed shortages at the local detox unit.

She says anyone thinking of trying the drug should only do so under the close supervision of a doctor.

Porter says withdrawal symptoms are extreme, running from severe joint pain to a feeling like the stomach has been pushed so far in that it touches the tailbone.