Alcohol must keep flowing during pandemic to prevent serious withdrawal: addiction experts

Alcohol must keep flowing during pandemic to prevent serious withdrawal: addiction experts

Ensuring alcohol is available may not look like a need during a public health emergency situation, but it can be a matter of life or death for those with serious addiction.

Liquor Marts in Manitoba remain open for now however plans are being made in case they are closed. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Ensuring alcohol is offered might not look like a need during a public health emergency, however it can be a matter of life or death for those with extreme dependency.

Up until now, Manitoba liquor stores stay open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Ontario alcohol stores were deemed to be an important service under a broad public health order that forced every non-essential work environment to close down.

” If we were to cut off that alcohol, we understand that [people with alcohol addiction] may enter withdrawal signs,” said CBC’s medical writer, Dr. Peter Lin.

” You can have dreadful seizures,” he said. ” Individuals can collapse. They might enter into all sorts of hallucinations.”

Moderate withdrawal symptoms include feeling jittery, insomnia and small nausea, however severe signs can lead to hospitalization or death.

Dr. Peter Lin says cutting off the supply of alcohol for those who are dependent could have unexpected and extreme health effects. (Samantha Lui/CBC)

” I have not advised the closure of [liquor] outlets,” said Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin. “According to my orders, they will remain open, however we are evaluating those kinds of things constantly, and all of the unintentional repercussions of any option we make.”

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Roussin said he’s heard reports of individuals with opioid usage condition buying illegal drugs from unidentified suppliers, which increases the possibility of overdose. These reports prompted the province to ensure there is an appropriate supply of naloxone– a substance abuse to reverse opioid overdose.


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Rick Lees runs the Main Street Task, which runs a 60- bed detox system. Clients are given a range of prescription drugs to deal with withdrawal signs during their stay, which can vary from 10 to 21 days.

Lees says stopping alcohol without medical help can be dangerous for individuals with addictions.

” You could have a genuine crisis since individuals would get ill actually quickly, and with the capacity of death, undoubtedly, if they were not admitted to some safe supply.”

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Rick Lees states a safe supply of alcohol needs to be preserved for those with alcohol dependency. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Lees has remained in talks with Manitoba Alcohol & Lotteries to find out the very best method to make sure there is a safe supply of alcohol during the pandemic.

” If [liquor stores] were forced to close down by order of government, we would create perhaps a safe shipment supply and established a safe circulation website within our programs, so that we might continue to have a baseline of alcohol readily available to customers who would absolutely need to have gain access to.”

Safe supply can take different types in the event of store closures. A few of the possibilities include turning closed alcohol stores into circulation websites, staffed by both Main Street Task and Manitoba Alcohol & Lotteries workers, where people might purchase alcohol without entering into in-person treatment.

A handled alcohol program is also being thought about for in-person treatment and for those who should self-isolate throughout the pandemic.

A handled alcohol program is a harm-reduction approach that offers measured dosages of alcohol to individuals with serious alcohol reliance.

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Winnipeg does not currently have actually any managed alcohol programs.

” In excellent times, managed alcohol has actually been challenged as an appropriate response. And now in a pandemic, it’s something that’s directly on the table,” said Lees.

” One of the reasons I think [liquor stores] are seen as being somewhat vital is since of the unintended consequence — a brand-new sort of crisis you could develop by all of a sudden withdrawing a compound.”

The press secretary for Minister of Crown Services Jeff Wharton says the provincial federal government is following Dr. Roussin’s suggestions closely, and at this time alcohol stores stay open.

” Manitoba Alcohol & Lotteries are taking a number of actions in Alcohol Marts to help in reducing the danger of spreading out COVID-19,” the spokesperson stated.