Hard times help kick hard drugs

The recession is turning out to be one way to break a drug addiction. Methadone clinics in Calgary, Red Deer and Medicine Hat have seen an increase in clients who have either lost their jobs or worry that may happen, said Bill Leslie with Central Alberta Methadone Program in Red Deer.

The recession is turning out to be one way to break a drug addiction.

Methadone clinics in Calgary, Red Deer and Medicine Hat have seen an increase in clients who have either lost their jobs or worry that may happen, said Bill Leslie with Central Alberta Methadone Program in Red Deer.

“A lot more people in the working class with families are coming in because of the layoffs,” said Leslie, the clinic’s social worker, on Monday.

“They can’t afford to be picking up what they need on the street and support their family, too.”

Methadone prevents physical withdrawal and reduces drug cravings for opiates, including morphine and heroin.

Leslie said morphine is more common in Alberta then heroin. People injured on the job who are prescribed painkillers for a long time sometimes get hooked, although they are usually addicted to a lower dosage.

Being laid off can give people the incentive to clean up if they lose their company health plan or it gives them the time they need to clean up, he said.

“If you’re out making $10,000 a month, do you want to take the six weeks and do it, or two months? It’s a tough decision when you have a mortgage payment and truck payments.”

More companies have also instituted drug screening programs and workers are “getting a little scared,” Leslie said.

“You don’t know when they’re going to do it. You could be heading home and you go around a corner and there’s a road barricade — urine sample time, boys. And there’s no second chance. If you come back positive, you either go to treatment or you’ve lost your job.”

The Red Deer clinic sees between about 190 clients a month. They are 87 per cent opiate free, which is fantastic, he said.

Both the Red Deer and Medicine Hat clinics have garnered public support, unlike Calgary where the clinic has three months to look for a new home after facing community opposition.

“The small communities we just seem to fit in. We become part of the community. There’s been no confrontation, no major complaints.

“Calgary is totally different. NIMBY is alive and well.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com