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New harm reduction resource available

February 19, 2020
Coalition of colleges and experts have authored the document to assist in providing hospital care for patients with substance use disorders.

When a person with a substance use disorder presents to hospital, it represents a challenge for patients, clinical teams, and employees. Substance use disorders do not resolve upon admission to hospital, and substance use will often continue during a patient’s stay.

For the past several years, numerous authors and an advisory committee of expert stakeholders have been working to create an Alberta-focused resource to support effective acute care for hospital inpatients who use alcohol, opioids, and methamphetamines. The advisory committee included people with lived/living experience (PWLE), front-line care providers, addiction specialists, a public health specialist, a medical ethicist, health administrators, and representatives from the following regulatory colleges:

  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA),
  • College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA),
  • College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Alberta (CRPNA),
  • College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA), and
  • Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP).

The final result is the Guidance Document on the Management of Substance Use in Acute Care. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first document of its kind in Canada.

The Guidance Document was designed to be a focused, point-of-care resource to support the evidence-informed care of people with substance use disorders when they are admitted to hospital. While patients admitted to acute care may use a variety of legal and illegal substances, this Guidance Document focuses specifically on approaches and interventions for alcohol, stimulants, and opioids; commonly used substances that are challenging for patients and staff.

ACP hopes that this document will act as a useful resource to registrants practising in acute care settings. For registrants working outside of acute care settings, the document should foster a better overall understanding of the principles of harm reduction and raise awareness of the challenges faced by individuals with substance use disorder and by the healthcare providers that care for them while in hospital.