Hundreds of BC Naturopathic Doctors Enroll in Training to Fight Toxic Drug Crisis
VANCOUVER, BC, February 15, 2024 – More than 250 naturopathic doctors (NDs) in BC have responded to a call by the BC Naturopathic Doctors Association (BCND) to join the fight against the toxic drug crisis by enrolling in the BC Centre for Substance Use (BCCSU) provincial opioid addiction treatment support program. 50 NDs in 30 communities have already started training courses.
“There is an acute shortage of health professionals across the province available to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to the toxic drug supply,” said Dr. Vanessa Lindsay, ND, BCND president. “As primary care professionals, we are ready, we are available, and we have an excellent safety record when it comes to prescribing. We are asking the provincial government to remove the barriers that prevent us from helping patients in need.”
NDs are a provincially regulated healthcare profession with more than 700 licensed naturopathic doctors across B.C. More than 85 percent have been prescribing provincially scheduled drugs safely since 2010.
“Naturopathic doctors in BC want to be part of an effective, province-wide response to the immense challenges facing our health care system by proposing constructive solutions in the public interest,” added Dr. Lindsay, ND. “Starting now, NDs can contribute our expertise and be part of the health care teams working to care for opioid-dependent patients. BCND hopes the provincial government agrees and provides us with an opportunity to fully utilize our skills and training before this crisis claims even more lives.”
While NDs can prescribe provincially regulated medications for patients in clinics, the government does not permit them to access tools to treat opioid dependence. BCND has asked the provincial government to extend naturopathic doctors’ prescribing capabilities to include opioid agonist therapy and immediate-release safer supply substances.
Opioid agonist therapy (OAT) is the cornerstone of treatment for opioid-related dependency. OAT reduces toxic drug cravings. This allows individuals living with opioid use disorder an opportunity for recovery — opening doors to maintain employment, better function, and contribute more meaningfully in society. For NDs to access OAT, the provincial government needs to facilitate access to relevant prescription medicine and support the training program, including preceptorships. To date, it has done neither. Meanwhile, the unregulated toxic drug supply continues to be the leading cause of death in BC for persons aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents, and natural diseases combined.
Dr. Lindsay’s comments echo BC’s Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe’s urgent call for “a fundamentally different approach” from government to address the crisis, or people will die at unprecedented rates. BC’s Chief Coroner has urged government to consider a practical, scalable response to the crisis, and to be nimbler to meet the unique needs of people in communities that are rural and remote.
Dr. Vanessa Lindsay on The Jill Bennett Show
Dr. Deborah Phair on The Jill Bennett Show
Interview with Rob Fai
Dr. Deborah Phair on CBC Daybreak North Radio
Interview with Carolina De Ryk
Jennifer Whiteside on CBC Daybreak North Radio
Comments on Coroners report
CBC Daybreak North Radio
The Current – CBC Daybreak North Radio
Interview with BC Coroner
BCND Bulletin Winter 2023
Profile: Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT)