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Trafficking in painkillers a concern in Bay St. George area: Const. Johnston

The use of Hydromorphone and painkillers in the Bay St. George area is a concern for police.
The use of Hydromorphone and painkillers in the Bay St. George area is a concern for police. - 123RF Stock Photo

Const. James Johnston said the sale of Hydromorphone and painkillers is a concern in Bay St. George, where he said it is heavily abused.

A 53-year-old Stephenville Crossing woman was arrested and is facing charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking Hydromorphone and for trafficking Hydromorphone.

Police seized a quantity of Hydromorphone (Dilaudid), other prescription medication, cash and drug paraphernalia when they executed a search warrant last Thursday.

Johnston said police have made arrests related to this drug. Originally prescribed as a pain medication, it’s not being trafficked as a street narcotic.

Don Russell, who runs the addiction recovery drop-in centre in Stephenville, said the problem runs much deeper than just one drug and one community.

“You’ll find it (drugs and painkillers) in every community in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.

Russell said the problem in smaller communities is you don’t have the treatment available that you would in urban settings.

He said there is a lot of methadone, a drug used for treatment of people on opioids or other prescription medications, in this province.

“The fact is people addicted will abuse with whatever they can get their hands on, including marijuana and alcohol,” Russell, a retired counsellor, said.

He said if alcohol is substituted for another drug — and since alcohol is a depressant, anesthetic and a sedative all wrapped in one, making it highly addictive — it will bring you back to your drug of choice.

“Alcohol is just a slower way of getting that high and escaping. A person who uses drugs will try to get there faster,” Russell said.

He said that’s why some users get medications, crush them up and snort them for that faster high — and that faster high is highly addictive.

“If you want to get that high that fast, then you’re into something I call the cycle of dying,” Russell said.

He said the problem in this province is there is no long-term treatment centre and only Humberwood near Corner Brook – a short-term treatment centre on this side of the island.

Also, there is no detoxification centre on the west coast of Newfoundland, with the only one on the island in St. John’s, it’s really not meeting the needs of those in Western.

Russell said the responsible way to do things is for a person who has a chronic or severe addiction to get a referral from a transition counsellor to a detox centre to a treatment centre, then to counselling and self-help.

“That’s what other provinces are doing that we’re not doing here,” he said.

Russell doesn’t know of any abstinence-based programs in this province and said its mostly harm reduction programs here.

“A person needs to be able to make a choice of harm reduction or abstinence. The use of methadone may work for some but not for all,” he said.

Russell said he doesn’t know of any addict who would board a bus in Stephenville and go to St. John’s for detox, which is only a short-term solution.

He said the province will always have these problems if people with addictions are not treated properly.

“I’m doing my best with a drop-in,” Russell said.

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