When services that are supposed to help, don’t. My experience with detox.

My experience in detox my experience in detox

In many communities there are a lack of services to begin with. When those that do exist don’t offer care with compassion, it’s even worse. When you’re treated so badly, why would you ever go back? I can speak to my personal experience with detox. When I went to seek help from one service provider, there was a shocking lack of knowledge among the staff, and even nurses, around narcotic addictions and the intensive withdrawal people go through. 

I only managed to get a bed on a Friday night, so I had to make it through the weekend without seeing a methadone doctor who I could only see on the following Monday. 

It was my first time at this location. I was totally unaware of how very little knowledge the staff had for people addicted to opioids. It felt like I was the only person they had ever seen there who was addicted to something other than alcohol. Those few days I had to go through to get to Monday were agonizing. I was straight suffering and with nothing to stop or help with the pain. My own mind was literally blacked out almost that entire time until Monday when I started to get my memory back.  

For people who don’t know what withdrawal is like, it’s hard to describe. Imagine the worst muscle pain, nausea, stomach discomfort, anxiety all hitting you at once. You get a fever and chills too. It’s as if your body is waging war against you. Now imagine realizing you have to suffer through that for an entire weekend with no end in sight. You can’t just go to the drug store to pick up a Tylenol. I had to wait, and suffer through it all.

I just can’t believe that all they would do to help me get through that was to just give me the same treatment they give someone who is going through alcohol withdrawal. They had absolutely no idea how to help me with my opioid withdrawal, and I feel sorry for all the other people who have this same addiction and only have access to these services.

“I was finally able to function like a normal person. I was finally not suffering anymore.”

After I somehow managed to get through that unbearable weekend and make it to Monday, one of the social workers drove me to the methadone clinic to see the methadone doctor. As soon as he looked at me, he made the social worker I was with take me straight away to get a dose of methadone before he even talked to me or continued with my appointment. That’s how bad I was; he knew it just by looking at me. After I got my methadone, the doctor and I had our appointment. I was finally able to function like a normal person. I was finally not suffering anymore.

When I returned to the detox service provider, a nurse and another staff member took me aside to a private room and started just accusing me of taking drugs. They told me they were trained to tell when someone has taken any narcotics and that if I didn’t tell them what I took they would have me removed from detox even though I had travelled more than 400km to access these services. The psychological and physical pain people who use drugs experience is unbearable. It’s stigma.

READ MORE: The impact of stigma

That made me extremely emotional on top of going through withdrawal. I couldn’t believe they could treat people like that. Thankfully I got to stay at detox because the social worker I was with lobbied on my behalf. The doctor also explained to them that it was nothing but my methadone that made me feel a lot better than I was.

Services meant to help, should do just that. They shouldn’t make the situation worse through a lack of understanding and compassion. When you are in such intense physical pain, you become more emotionally vulnerable. You need support and compassion—not judgement.

About Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Advocating for public health- and human rights-based drug policies grounded in evidence, social justice, and compassion. www.drugpolicy.ca