Edmonton doctors take on Alberta's opioid crisis with new committee

File photo.

Those behind the newly formed Opioid Poisoning Committee are promising to advocate for better policy and evidenced-based services to address Alberta’s opioid poisoning crisis.

The group made up of members of the Edmonton Zone Medial Staff Association was announced Thursday.

Chair Dr. Salvalaggio said the committee will aim to be data driven, peer reviewed, and evidence based.

“Our work will be in consultation with people who are living out this moment,” said Salvalaggio.

The group of doctors hopes to raise awareness about the effects of the opioid crisis.

In the first five months of 2021, 624 Albertans died from opioid poisoning.

Dr. Jaspreet Khangura, an emergency physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, called the increase in the amount of street drugs in the province is alarming.

“They’re affecting not just people with opioid-use disorders, but also people who never intended to use opioids,” Khangura said.

The committee also wants to address opioid-related issues, like advocating for stronger support systems and better access to harm reduction, which they believe is a critical part in addressing the public health emergency.

“Research shows that when people used in a supervised setting, very few need to be transported to hospital let alone intensive care, and there are fewer deaths,” said Khangura.

According to ICU physician Dr. Darren Markland, advocacy will be the focus of the group in order for physicians to better treat and respond to cases of opioid-related poisoning.

“Right now, there is lack of information out there with respect to numbers, with respect to prognosis,” said Markland. “And that information is available to the government, it’s just not given to us in a timely fashion so that we can react and give meaningful advice.”

The Opioid Poisoning Committee plans to offer both short and long-term strategies to the Alberta government in hopes of reducing the number of drug-related deaths.