From Substance Use and Self-Medicating to Treatment and Community

October 31, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

Drugs were always in the background when Bryan was growing up. His mother experienced substance use challenges, and Bryan first tried drugs at a young age, when he and his friends experimented recreationally.

But it was a work injury that took Bryan’s substance use challenges in a more serious direction.

I chopped off a few fingers and had many broken bones. My doctor had me on morphine for a long time – it helped me cope with the pain.

“Things really turned for me after that.”

Bryan’s tolerance to the medication increased over time, leading him to need higher doses to cope with the pain. But as his tolerance increased, so did his dependence on opioids.

I had to self-medicate. That’s when I turned to street drugs.

Treatment and Community

That was a few years ago, and Bryan is now in a very different place.

“Things are better for me now,” he says. “I’m on the methadone treatment and outreach has been a huge help.”

Bryan has stopped using drugs and he addresses his opioid use disorder and pain through evidence-based treatment, as well as connection to the community that has supported him along the way.

Now, he works to support people in places where he once was – and he has ideas to help those like him – often men – avoid the challenges he did. 

“I’ve been working with the outreach team a lot, distributing harm reduction materials like naloxone kits and clean needles,” Bryan says.

"But really, I want to show people that there is a better way of life. There should be opportunities for men to go out together and talk and get them engaged with the rest of the community.”

If people have more opportunities to connect like that, a lot of good things would come out of it.

Bryan shared his story in the Behind the Numbers research project, in which people with lived experience using drugs and healthcare service providers offered their perspectives to help further understanding of substance use and addiction in B.C.

Learn more about the Behind the Numbers project.

Read the Behind the Numbers stories book (PDF).

Are you or someone you know experiencing challenges related to substance use?

Call 8-1-1 for information on recovery and addiction treatment services in your area or to speak to a registered nurse or pharmacist.

Search for services in B.C. using the Mental Health and Substance Use Service Map.

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