Opiate Addiction in British Columbia

Opiate Addiction in British Columbia

The opioid epidemic is taking lives and abolishing families across Vancouver and the province of British Columbia. British Columbia’s Coroners Service says opioid-related deaths in June 2022 alone are calculated to be 4.9 deaths per day. Between the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities, 59% of deaths in 2022 were opioid-related.

The British Columbia Centre on Substance Use has declared that more than 1,000 people have lost their lives to the repercussions of opioid use in the first 6 months of 2022. British Columbia is continuing on course, closely approaching its highest fatality rate in history for opioid-related deaths.

Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner said, “in July, our province reached a milestone of 10,000 deaths since the drug death crisis was declared in 2016”. As of 2022, the number of opioid-related deaths has doubled since the declaration of the public health emergency back in April of 2016.

The Problem

More or less, every individual in Vancouver has been affected by addiction to some extent. Whether it be through a personal experience, a friend or family member, or an acquaintance, the opioid epidemic has brought detrimental harm to people all across Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia.

British Columbia Emergency Health Services indicates that call volumes in 2021 equated to 97 overdose-related calls per day. Vancouver is the highest community making the overdose call and increased by 23% the number of calls from the previous year. The cities of Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna, and Abbotsford are the top five recorded cities phoning in for emergency medical response, this does not include those incapacitated, and unable to phone for assistance.

Over half of drug-related deaths occurred at the victim’s home, 25% in other inside residences, and 15% took place outside on streets, parks, or in vehicles. The majority of these deaths take place in the Fraser (352) and Vancouver (297) Coastal Health Authorities.

opiate overdose support groups in vancouver

More fentanyl overdoses are arising as a result of cross-contamination of drugs. In 2020, about 83% of drug-related deaths in British Columbia had the presence of fentanyl in the victim’s system, in addition to other substances.

Opioid Definitions


Fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone; are medications that help relieve pain. However, opioids are also available illegally. Illegal opioids are any opioids that are made, shared, or sold illegally. The most common forms are; Codeine, Oxycodone, Methadone, Hydromorphone, and Fentanyl.

Opioids can be pharmaceutical-grade and prescribed by physicians and surgeons. Prescription opioids can end up for illegal sale on the street. These can be “cut: or tainted with other compounds, including fentanyl.


Fentanyl is a very strong, odourless, and tasteless synthetic narcotic. Fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Non-illicit fentanyl is typically prescribed to control severe pain.
Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is being imported, mixed with other drugs, and illegally sold in either pill form (face oxycodone and other club drugs) or powder form (heroin or fentanyl) and powder form mixed into other drugs (Example: Cocaine, Crystal Meth, etc.)

3 or 4 grains of fentanyl are enough to kill an average adult.


Carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue and opioid drug 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. It is not licensed for use in humans but is meant to sedate large animals under strict safety conditions, such as elephants.

1 grain can kill an adult

Signs of Overdose

  • Breathing is slow or not breathing at all
  • Blue nails and/or lips
  • Choking or throwing up
  • Making gurgling sounds
  • Skin is cold and clammy
  • Won’t wake up

Overdoses can happen if you take:

  • An opioid not prescribed for you
    More opioids than prescribed to you (higher dose than prescribed)
  • An opioid with alcohol or other drugs (Ex., Anxiety medication, muscle relaxants, or sleeping pills)
  • An opioid that has been tampered with (Ex. Broken or crushed)
    Illegally produced or obtained
  • If you have stopped taking opioids for a while and started using them again, you can be at risk of an overdose because your body is not used to the drug anymore.

If you suspect an opioid overdose, you should:

  1. Call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency helpline) and stay at the scene
    Give naloxone, if you have it.
  2. Know that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects you from simple drug possession charges.

calling 911 for an opiate overdose

Signs of Opioid Addiction:

  • Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain.
  • A smell of substance on breath, body, or clothes
    Extreme hyperactivity; excessive talkativeness
  • Needle marks or bruises on lower arm, legs, or bottom of feet
    Change in overall attitude/personality with no other identifiable causes
  • Change in friends; new hang-outs, avoidance of old crowd, new friends are drug users.
  • Change in activities; loss of interest in things that were important before.
  • Drop in school or work performance; skips or is late to school or work.
  • Changes in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities
  • Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness
    Lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, and discipline. Bored, “I don’t care” attitude.
  • Defensiveness, temper tantrums, resentful behaviour (everything’s a hassle)
  • Unexplained moodiness, irritability, or nervousness
  • Violent temper or bizarre behaviour
  • Unexplained silliness or giddiness
  • Paranoia – overly suspicious
  • Excessive need for privacy; keeps the door locked or closed, won’t let people in.
  • Secretive or suspicious behaviour
  • Car accidents, fender benders, household accidents
  • Chronic dishonesty; trouble with the police.
  • Unexplained need for money; can’t explain where their money goes; stealing.
  • Unusual effort to cover arms, and legs.
  • Change in personal grooming habits
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

covering arms to hide drug use

How Opiates Affect the Brain

Both humans and animals have opiate receptors in the brain. These receptors act as active sites for different types of opiates, such as heroin and morphine. The reason the brain has these receptor sites is because of the existence of endogenous (internal) neurotransmitters that act on these rector sites and produce responses in the body that are similar to those of opiate drugs.

Opiates and opioids work by binding to specific receptors in the brain, mimicking the effects of pain-relieving chemicals that are produced naturally. These drugs bind to opiate receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other locations in the body. This blocks the perception of pain. Opiates can cause feelings of well-being, but they can also cause side effects such as nausea, confusion, and drowsiness.

In addition to relieving pain, opiates can lead to feelings of euphoria. While these drugs are often very effective in treating pain, people can eventually develop a tolerance, so they require higher doses to achieve the same effects.

Finding the right intervention specialist for your loved one can make the difference between success and failure. A successful intervention can change your loved one’s life. You owe it to them to try to do whatever it takes to get them the help that they so desperately need.

When most people search online for interventionist teams, they use the search term “interventionists near me” which can lead to results that are not necessarily appropriate for your specific circumstances.

Choosing an interventionist that has some reality with the specific addiction may have better results that will lead to a common ground between the person holding the intervention and the individual, who needs to realize that they do need the help that is being offered.

If you have found that you are facing an underlying addiction problem with a husband, wife, spouse, son, daughter or any other loved one in your life, It is imperative that you look for help from a professionally trained interventionist. Giving our trained intervention specialists can help narrow down the search parameters for interventionists near you. We offer professional intervention services in British Columbia for opioid addiction, alcohol addiction, all drug addictions, and any other addictive behaviours that are causing problems in your or your loved one’s life.

How to Find Help for Opiate Addiction in Vancouver, British Columbia

Opioid/opiate addiction is one of the most serious and dangerous dependencies your loved one can grow accustomed to. The dangers that present with the addiction to opiates go well beyond a simple chemical reliance. The threat of opiate addiction has evolved even more so, thanks to increased prescription drug monitoring. Drug monitoring makes opiate prescription drugs harder to obtain, often forcing those addicted to turning to heroin and black-market drugs.

Families need to be aware that when an individual is addicted to opiates, they are addicted to the same substance as heroin. It only takes one desperate act during cravings for a person to shift from abusing prescription opiates to using heroin. One desperate moment makes prescription opiates a dangerous form of a gateway drug.

Where do you begin when someone you know and care for is addicted to opiates? You know they need addiction help, but how do you begin to help them? The best way to start is to look at the problem from the opposite angle. What are you trying to attain? You want the person you care for to stop using drugs and stay off them for good, right?
Yes, the ultimate goal of opiate addiction treatment is “long-term opioid/opiate addiction recovery.”

Long Term Addiction Recovery in North Vancouver and Vancouver, British Columbia

Now that we have established our ultimate goal for our loved one addicted to opiates, we can determine a plan to achieve that goal. The goal is long-term rehabilitation from opiate addiction, not just a short-term solution. To ensure the longevity of the solution, it needs to have safeguards in place. Fundamentally, we want our long-term recovery to be strong enough to prevent the individual from giving in to any urge to use opiates during their recovery and after treatment. Therefore, we want the opiate treatment program to utilize treatments and therapies to promote relapse prevention.

Our Goal: Long-Term Addiction Recovery

Addiction Relapse Prevention

Getting off the drugs is the first phase of opiate addiction treatment and is covered in the initial detox phase. Even after an individual has successively detoxed and received opiate addiction treatment and substance abuse counselling, many challenges will still arise in their recovery. Facing urges to use opiates, handling post-acute withdrawal symptoms, and dealing with stress and triggers can hinder recovery, especially If the individual has not been taught how to deal with these challenges.

Relapse prevention involves utilizing counselling and substance abuse therapy received to get to the foundation of why a person chooses to use opiates. Understanding why? Even when they know the consequences associated with opiate abuse. Using various forms of counselling and therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), substance abuse counsellors can help individuals identify the reasons they use opiates.

For example, if a person uses opiates whenever they feel stress, stress is then identified as the trigger, and behavioral therapies like CBT will teach you how to react to these triggers in more positive ways, rather than using drugs as a reaction. It is therefore important to have relapse prevention education integrated into the addiction treatment program if we want to achieve our overall goal of “long-term recovery.”

Opiate Addiction Treatment in North Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia

Now we have our goal of long-term opiate addiction recovery. We know that an addiction treatment program will have to utilize relapse prevention education if we are to achieve that goal. What else does the addiction treatment program need to include to bring us to our goal? There are a few other considerations we need to look at to select the best treatment program for opiate addiction:

Opiate Addiction and Mental Treatment

One of the most critical factors in what makes a successful addiction treatment program is the program’s ability to treat underlying mental health conditions that could be contributing to substance abuse. With opiate abuse, many addicts have an underlying condition of depression, anxiety, personality disorder, or other mental health condition. These underlying conditions need to be treated at the same time the individual is receiving treatment for substance abuse and addiction issues.

If the individual receives only addiction treatment and not co-occurring disorders treatment, then the addiction treatment is less likely to be successful. To achieve our goal of long-term opiate recovery, we need the treatment to be successful and therefore utilize dual diagnosis treatment if an underlying mental health condition is present.

An Opiate Addiction Treatment Program That Offers Aftercare Support / Recovery Coaching

Addiction treatment programs should be flexible in the help they provide after treatment. It is easier for someone to adapt to a life of sobriety when they are under careful supervision during rehabilitation than it is after they have left rehab.

A blonde student girl wearing a medical mask looks at the university building and enters the door during the coronavirus quarantine

Common Questions:

Will the rehabilitation program allow the individual to return for counselling sessions if they need help?

Will there be any aftercare program that helps ease the individual back into everyday life?

If the individual has a relapse and quickly regrets their decision and wants to get back onto their recovery path – will the program make them start from the beginning? Or is there a way to continue building on the success they have already achieved?

Even though the hope is that your loved one will have a perfect recovery, and will not relapse or have any slip-ups, will they be able to get back on track? or will the treatment program force them to take a big step backward?

Opiate addiction treatment programs that have some form of aftercare, offer ongoing treatment, and work with you at every stage of your recovery journey are essential if we are going to achieve our goal of long-term recovery.

Our Goal: Long-Term Opioid/Opiate Addiction Recovery

What is Needed to Achieve Our Goal:

  • Relapse Prevention
  • An Opioid Addiction Treatment Plan including Dual Diagnosis,
  • Aftercare, and Follow-up Treatment Options Plan
  • Recovery or Sober Coaching

Opiate Detoxification in North Vancouver and Vancouver, British Columbia

Before beginning opiate addiction treatment, substance abuse therapy, dual diagnosis treatment, or recovering from their addiction, the individual first needs to stop using opiates. Though, someone who is chemically dependent on opiates cannot quit “cold turkey”, they need to be slowly weaned off of the opiates.

The safest way to detox from opiates is through medically assisted opiate detox. Opiate detox will tailor to your individual history of opiate use (how much/many opiate drugs are you taking, how long have you been taking opiates, what are the half-lives of those drugs, and are you at risk for heroin and intravenous opiate use). The detox program will also assess your needs for post-detox treatment and may make recommendations for what your addiction treatment programs should include (i.e. they may suggest dual diagnosis treatment if they recognize an underlying mental health condition, or may recommend longer-term treatment and aftercare if you suffer from especially heavy post-acute withdrawal syndrome).

Our Goal: Long-Term Opioid/Opiate Addiction Recovery

What is Needed to Achieve This Goal:

  • Relapse Prevention
  • An Opioid Addiction Treatment Plan including Dual Diagnosis,
  • Aftercare, and Follow-up Treatment Options Plan
  • Opiate Detox
  • Help from a drug and alcohol therapist or interventionist

Drug and Alcohol Interventions in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Across the Province

For opiate addicts to begin treatment and detox, they must first want help and agree to treatment. Opiates are often much stronger than an individual’s desire to recover, so the first thing that is often required is an intervention. An intervention allows everyone to get on the same page. Everyone, including family members, friends, the person who is addicted, and the hired interventionist. This is when the addiction treatment plan is explained and the individual is presented with what their road to recovery will look like. We would then explain to the individual our plan and goals for their recovery at this point:

“Your goal is long-term recovery from opiate addiction. We have identified the treatment plan that will best help you to achieve that goal – including dual diagnosis treatment, aftercare, and strong relapse prevention education. We are asking you to please help yourself by accepting this opiate addiction treatment plan.”

Our Goal: Long-Term Opioid/Opiate Addiction Recovery

What is Needed to Achieve This Goal:

  • Relapse Prevention
  • An Opioid Addiction Treatment Plan
  • Opiate Detox
  • Opiate Intervention

Opioid/Opiate Addiction Treatment Planning and Case Management

Andy Bhatti Intervention focuses on helping family and friends of addicts create and implement an addiction treatment plan, just like the example above. Our family case management services put together a successful treatment strategy with a clear goal in mind. Starting with a call to our certified interventionists, we assess your family’s needs for treatment planning, and we work closely with loved ones to create a clear path to the ultimate goal of long-term addiction recovery.
You – as a family member, friend, spouse, or loved one of an addict – know the goal. You want the person that you care for to be able to achieve recovery and stay sober. Getting to that goal is much more complicated, and families do need the help of professionals to ensure that there is a clear and stable long-term treatment plan.

Call us today and let us help you set up a treatment plan that has succeeded as the long-term goal, for someone you care for.

An intervention is not about how to control the substance user; it is about how to let go of believing you can. Our professional addiction therapist and interventionist work closely with families to reach a successful intervention. Our interventionist work all over British Columbia. We have offices in Langley and North Vancouver. Interventions save lives.


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