A small group of health-care workers in Alberta is working to inform wildfire evacuees from the Northwest Territories about where to access common medications for opioid-use disorder in Calgary and Edmonton.
Missing even a day of medications causes withdrawal symptoms, while several days without increases the risk of relapsing for otherwise stable patients — which means more people at risk of dying from the toxic street drug supply, says Dr. Kate Colizza, an addiction medicine and internal medicine physician in Calgary.
“It’s not the type of medication where a lot of people can plan ahead or have extras available,” said Colizza, who created fliers listing opioid agonist therapy (OAT) clinics and programs in the two cities.
“The issue with a lot of these medications — like Suboxone, methadone, Kadian — is that … you have to go to the pharmacy every day to pick up and take your medication.”
Thousands of people have fled Yellowknife and surrounding First Nations since last week, filling evacuation centres in Calgary, Edmonton, and surrounding areas. In the middle of a toxic drug crisis that killed at least 7,328 people across Canada last year, experts and advocates fear displacement due to wildfires could lead to more toxic drug poisonings and deaths.
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Colizza and her colleagues began putting together information for the fliers as soon as they heard evacuees would be arriving in Alberta. The goal is to make it easier for people to access care when they do not have an Alberta health plan and physicians cannot access their health records.
After she shared the information on social media, Colizza said advocates on the ground started printing out the fliers and distributing them at evacuee reception centres.
Petra Schulz, co-founder of Moms Stop the Harm, said the