Victoria doctor says hospitals are seeing spike in alcohol abuse patients

Victoria doctor says hospitals are seeing spike in alcohol abuse patients
Watch.C. has seen unprecedented numbers of overdose deaths in recent months, but there is another addiction crisis on the rise amid the pandemic. Doctors say Victoria hospitals are seeing more patients admitted from complications connected to alcohol abuse.

Fred Cameron works at Solid Outreach in Victoria, a job guided by his lived experience.

“After a 15-year struggle, help was there when I asked for it, so I feel it’s my duty to help others when I can,” said Cameron.

After beating his alcohol addiction, he’s now helping others beat theirs.

It’s something he says is needed more than ever amid a global pandemic.

“With the service providers not being out there, it feels like people are alone,” explained Cameron. “When they reach out and there’s no one out there to answer, we need that face to face contact as well. Zoom meetings aren’t good enough.”

B.C. has seen a spike in drug overdose deaths since the start of the pandemic, but its not the only addiction crisis on the rise.

“We’re seeing, certainly, people drinking more,” said Dr. Anne Nguyen, a family physician at the Victoria Cool Aid Society, who also started the Victoria Inner City COVID Response.

Nguyen says hospital rooms in Victoria are filling with more and more patients admitted from alcohol-abuse.

“The pandemic has been a very isolating time,” she said. “People have lost work, lost social support, lost a lot of the activities that give them meaning like hobbies as well.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Nguyen says she’s seen a significant increase in the number of patients arriving at the hospital due to improper alcohol consumption and the complications that come with it.

“As a result of drinking more, they’re having more complications, so that includes withdrawal, but it includes problems like falling, pancreatitis,” says Nguyen. “Some of the illnesses we see are gastrointestinal bleeding. We’re seeing more cases of those in the hospital and people asking for help as well.”

READ MORE: B.C. investing $10.5 million in overdose prevention supports, treatment and outreach

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some recovery centres and other crucial support services that would normally be available to those battling alcoholism close their doors.

Although some outreach programs are resuming services, advocates say it isn’t enough.

“We need more resources,” said Nguyen. “Before the pandemic, those resources were stretched and now they’re stretched even further. We need resources for recovery centres, for counselors, for case managers to support psychiatrists and to support patients.”

Cameron spent two years at a recovery centre and knows how important the services are and how badly they are needed.

“That gave me a chance to start my life over again, and that’s after it didn’t work thousands of times, so the help has to be there when people are ready,” Cameron said.

Cameron says there are outreach centres in Victoria that are operating as well as AA meetings and peer groups that are continuing to meet during the pandemic.

An earlier version of the video story may have given an incorrect impression that Pegasus Recover Solutions was temporarily closed by the pandemic.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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