Director of Programs and Development at the Safe Harbour Society Brenda Hogan, left, and Manager of the Medically Supported Detox Centre Jennifer Cross cut the cake at the event celebrating the Safe Harbour Society’s first year of the medically supported detox centre. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Safe Harbour celebrates one year of helping people detox with medical assistance

Substance abuse workers say they are seeing methamphetamine use on the rise

Safe Harbour Society celebrated the first year of its medically supported detoxification centre on Thursday.

Jennifer Cross, manager of the medically supported detox centre, said she sees on a daily basis how the detox program helps individuals in Central Alberta manage their withdrawal symptoms.

“People are saying it’s helpful,” she said. “They have tried to withdraw before and it was too miserable and too difficult to do it by themselves.”

The program provides individuals looking to detox with access to seven doctors as well as 24-hour care and access to nurses.

Two measures of success include people moving on to treatment programs and individuals coming back for additional help, Cross explained.

She added,”They also really appreciate having a physician to talk to and to oversee their care.”

Families also benefit from the program because they struggle when a family member who has an addiction, Cross said.

While much of the focus has been on heroin, fentanyl and other opioids, news outlets lately have reported that substance abuse workers are seeing an increase of methamphetamine cases.

Cross agreed. She said more people are coming in after using meth in the past year, but said Safe Harbour has not yet developed programs as a result.

“I think we need to watch the trend a bit longer” she said. “I’ve heard that some people feel that meth is safer than fentanyl and might be taking it. But people use a lot of substances.”

She said the effects of the drug are severe.

“It really creates unpredictable behaviour. People can be on it for days at a time and not sleep, not eat and they are exhausted. The long-term effects of meth use are very damaging as well.”

Dr. Michael Mulholland, lead doctor with the program and head of family medicine at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, said in the centre’s statistics, most cases involve individuals coming in addicted to alcohol, but the second largest number is crystal meth.

He added that some weeks, the case numbers of people on crystal meth are higher.

“I’ve asked people why they use crystal meth,” he said, adding that fentanyl addiction is still a major concern. “It’s cheap, it’s six bucks. It keeps you awake.”

“Crystal meth causes a lot of mental heath issues,” he said. “People get very paranoid. They get aggressive, so the use of crystal meth is very, very significant.”

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