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What does it take for people struggling with opioid use disorder to achieve recovery?

And what does “recovery” mean to each person?

In this episode of Addiction Practice Pod, addiction physician Dr. Christy Sutherland, journalist David Ball and their guests talk about the different ways in which people who use drugs define recovery, and how clinicians can support patients in achieving their recovery goals.


In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • 2:49 – Al Fowler – Board member of BC Association of People on Opiate Maintenance
  • 7:55 – Keir MacDonald – Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Society in Surrey, BC
  • 16:07 – Dr. Karen Urbanoski – Assistant Professor of Public Health and Social Policy at University of British Columbia, and Canada Research Chair in Substance Use, Addictions and Health Services Research


Here’s what listeners can take away from this episode:

  1. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to problematic substance use. There are a range of definitions of what recovery means, but what they all have in common is well-being, a connection with community, and meeting a person’s goals.
  2. Recovery is an ongoing process that requires ongoing support. It’s great to check in with patients about how their recovery is going, especially during stressful times.
  3. Acute withdrawal management (“detox”) is just one step in recovery. It, alone, is not addiction treatment. Acute withdrawal management ensures that patients are medically safe while cutting down on or ceasing substance use and helps them establish a connection to care. For some patients, attending an in-patient program is a helpful step. But when they leave an inpatient program, they’re continuing an ongoing process of substance use care and support for recovery that can include a therapeutic dose of Opioid Agonist Treatment, access to harm reduction services and naloxone, and education about the high opioid overdose risk after a period of abstinence.
  4. Recovery can be an incremental process consisting of many small steps. It is important as a clinician to support patient-centred goals, and to not pressure people do more. There are many paths to recovery and many unique patient needs to be supported, including catching up on any primary care issues that have not been addressed. Celebrate all the small victories with patients along the way, such as improved relationships, housing, health, and what brings them joy.



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