The South Okanagan Similkameen is one of the first regions in Canada to champion a medical approach to treating alcohol use disorder – an option to eliminate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making a full recovery possible for just about anyone.
For many years, Nienke Klaver, a well-known community organizer and health-care advocate in Princeton, has had trouble controlling cravings and the amount of alcohol she drinks.
Thanks to a new treatment option now available in her community, her life has transformed. “It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Klaver. “I don’t have cravings anymore.”
To begin treatment, Klaver visited her family doctor who prescribed a medication to be taken for a short period of time to eliminate cravings. “It started working right away,” she said.
Alcohol Use Disorder is a medical condition like any other such as heart disease.
In this case, medications work to heal the part of the brain that causes cravings and intensifies withdrawal symptoms.
Several medication options are available for trialing with a patient, depending upon their personal, family or consumption history – meaning that a full recovery is possible for just about everyone.
Klaver appreciates that the compassionate understanding and treatment of alcohol use disorder as a medical condition removes stigma and judgment.
“I never had a problem telling friends that I’m an alcoholic but AUD sounds so much better,” she said “It implies you have a disease like diabetes and that it’s not really your fault that you drink too much.”
Providing freedom from cravings and withdrawal symptoms is an important part of this approach, as it makes it easier for people to seek counselling, talk with family or to access community services and supports, if they are needed.
Klaver adds she also appreciates that this approach doesn’t require abstinence, and that people have the power to choose how much they want to consume.
“I might quit altogether one day, but for now I like to have a glass of wine every now and then.”
It’s exciting that Princeton is a leading community when it comes to offering this treatment option, especially as providing relief and destigmatizing alcohol use can be helpful to those trying to cope with the added pressure of ongoing crises.
More broadly, this approach can help reduce alarming statistics in our region.
For the past decade, the communities in the interior region of BC have had higher rates of alcohol consumption than the rest of the province.
According to a recent report by our region’s Medical Health Officer, in 2017 we saw 589 alcohol-related deaths in our region, and in 2018, 5,090 hospitalizations.
Both those rates are increasing, exacerbated by a 30 per cent increase in alcohol consumption since the start of the pandemic.
As a non-profit, in partnership with the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen, the Canadian Alcohol Use Disorder Society plans to continue helping more people like Klaver know that hope for recovery is within reach in many communities in the Okanagan Similkameen, and in Princeton specifically.
For more information please visit our website www.cauds.org, share and watch for more columns in this mini-series, or speak with a family doctor or nurse practitioner.
“Give it a try,” encouraged Klaver. “It worked for me.”
Heather Allen is the communications director for the Canadian Alcohol Use Disorder Society, a national nonprofit, which advocates for a more effective and compassionate approach to treating alcohol use disorder as a medical condition. The organization formed in Penticton and is proud to collaborate with a variety of health-care organizations, and to work in partnership with the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen.
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