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Why a Medically Managed Detox is Important

the basketball diariesSome of you may be familiar with what withdrawal might look like if you’ve seen the movie, The Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In one of the scenes, Leonardo DiCaprio is experiencing withdrawal with no medical intervention and trying to go ‘cold turkey.’ He’s become addicted to Heroin and with the help of his friend Reggie he attempts to detox.

It’s true what you’ve seen in some movies or TV shows. Detox also referred to as withdrawal management, can be an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous if not executed properly. Detox is completed by patients that have severe dependence on alcohol or other drugs and need assistance getting rid of all these chemicals from the body. Not all detoxes are the same and can differ from person-to-person.

What is a Medical Detox?

According to research, a medically supervised detoxification treatment has always been seen as the “gold standard” and as a reasonable position to begin treatment.[1]  It’s important to clarify that medical detox will mitigate but does not always eliminate the discomfort.

At the EHN’s Bellwood Health Services, a medically managed detox is carried out because there are some serious health risks for clients coming off alcohol and or other drugs, such as seizures and other possibly life-threatening symptoms. At EHN, our detox includes the involvement of a medical doctor, a psychiatrist may be involved, a nurse, and support staff (counsellors).

According to Joshua Montgomery, Director of Nursing and Admissions at Bellwood Health Services, the process of a medically managed detox all depends on the substance.  At Bellwood, the length of time a person is in detox can vary from three to ten days depending on whether the person has become addicted to opiates, alcohol or benzos. A thorough assessment using the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) or the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA) to provide a framework to assess where the person is within their withdrawal and to determine what support the person requires and the medical attention needed.

Are There Risks Having a Non-Medically Supervised Detox?

Joshua Montgomery states that going through withdrawal can be dangerous, “People going through withdrawal without any medical supervision will experience withdrawal symptoms to a greater degree than a medical detox.  Yes, it can be dangerous. There are various levels of care someone might need. I would advise against that and to speak to a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action to take. We don’t want to support someone with their medication that they are trying to get off of but I rather have them wait a few days to receive medical attention than trying to detox on their own if the circumstances doesn’t allow them to immediately access medical detox services. We want to promote a safe and healthy detox.”

What Happens After Detox?

Joshua Montgomery shares, “Some clients might need continued monitoring. We eventually begin to integrate a client into our program. We motivate them and give them the freedom to do what they are ready to do. We use placement criteria to assess and determine what’s the best course of treatment that the client needs. We want to meet the client where they’re at. We want to encourage them to choose recovery and support them through the process.”

If you know someone who requires detox (withdrawal management) there are many organizations, including Bellwood Health Services, that can provide this delicate service across Canada. Give us a call to learn about the range of services and treatment programs we offer for alcohol, drug and prescription pain addictions.


[1] McCabe, Susan EdD, RN, CS. Rapid Detox: Understanding New Treatment Approaches for the Addicted Patient. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 36, No. 4. October- December 2000.

What You Need To Know About Lethal Drug W-18

W-18, a drug referred to by the media as “a Frankenstein,” is making headlines because Health Canada has confirmed a number of Fentanyl overdoses in connection with it. Scientists state it’s more potent and lethal than Heroin or Fentanyl.[1] Originally, it was created to relieve pain several years ago and forgotten. W-18 has shifted back to Canada and has Canadian law enforcement officials concerned for the health and safety of people who are unknowingly ingesting drugs purchased on the streets that could potentially contain W-18.

Although Alberta is the main province that has seen W-18 in traditional street drugs, this opioid can quickly reach other Canadian provinces because of the current lack of regulation for it. It’s important that information about this drug be shared so that that people are made aware of the risks from using it. The following are some quick facts about W-18:

  1. 1. It’s extremely potent: It’s described as “One of the most dangerous drugs on the whole spectrum of synthetics or analog”[2] It is “10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more potent than Fentanyl.” [3]
  2. 2. The Likelihood of overdosing from W-18 is very high: Anyone that comes into contact could overdose immediately and needs medical attention right away.
  3. 3. It’s being mixed with other drugs: Even if you’re not looking to use W-18 you might unknowingly ingest it. People are cutting it up and mixing it with other drugs such as Fentanyl. Others may also sell it as Heroin or OxyContin.[4]
  4. 4. It’s very accessible: W-18 isn’t regulated in Canada yet. Technically, anyone can purchase it online or have it delivered to them in the mail. Health Canada states it is expediting the process of getting W-18 in the federal Controlled Drug and Substance Act.[5]
  5. 5. First line responders are preparing themselves for the worst: Emergency room doctors across Alberta are anticipating a rise in overdoses from W-18.[6]
  6. 6. Many Canadian scientists and healthcare professionals believe Naloxone may help with overdoses from this lethal opioid but it’s not a concrete solution to the problem.[7]

The Edgewood Health Network does not encourage recreational drug use at all. We want everyone to be aware of what W-18 is and the high risk of overdosing if you ingest it. If you know someone who is using drugs such as Heroin, OxyContin or Fentanyl, please find help.

Recreational drug use is usually a sign of something more serious than presumed. When you seek help for ingesting W-18 or any opioid, please ensure you are under the supervision of a doctor.

We are always available to discuss drug addiction and treatment in Canada 1-800-683-0111.


[1] Warrnica Marion. Canadian Police Fight a Frakenstein in New W-18 Street Drug. CBC News. (April 24, 2016) Retrieved From

[2] Warrnica Marion. Canadian Police Fight a Frakenstein in New W-18 Street Drug. CBC News. (April 24, 2016) Retrieved From:

[3] Dangerous Drug W-18, More Powerful Than Fentanyl, Originally Invented in Alberta. CTV News. Published on April 21, 2016. Retrieved from:

[4] Warrnica Marion. Canadian Police Fight a Frakenstein in New W-18 Street Drug. CBC News. (April 24, 2016) Retrieved From

[5]Consultation- Proposal Regarding the Scheduliing of W-18 Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and it’s Regulations: Health Canada. Published on February 13, 2016. Retrieved From:

[6] Balca Dario. Alberta Police Warn of W-18, A Drug Far More Powerful Than Fentanyl. CTV News. Published April 20, 2016. Retrieved on:

[7] NewlyDeadly Peril Looms For Drug Users; Bracing For Trouble. The Province. Published March 4, 2016.

Fentanyl Facts: What you need to know about the drug showing up in Canadian cities

Fentanyl is all over the news right now. It seems that there is a new report every day about an overdose, an arrest or a large amount seized on its way to Canadian cities. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate typically used to treat severe and chronic pain. It is often prescribed to cancer patients. With so much buzz and so many news stories, it can be confusing to wade through the information, so here are some quick facts about Fentanyl and it’s use in Canada.

  1. 1. It’s strong and fast:

Fentanyl is 50-100 times more toxic than morphine and 100 times more potent than heroin. Its so strong that as little as two milligrams can cause an overdose. After ingestion it can reach your brain within minutes and cause respiratory failure. Many of the reported deaths have happened this way; someone takes half a pill, falls asleep and they never wake up.

  1. 2. It’s often cut into other drugs:

Fentanyl has been found in many other drugs like heroin, cocaine and oxycodone. In fact, buyers often think they’re buying Oxy when they’re really getting Fentanyl. The drug has no smell or taste, and you can’t see it so there is no way to tell if other drugs have been laced with it.

  1. 3. It’s addictive:

Just like any other opiod, Fentanyl is extremely addictive. Many users report craving it after just one use. And like many drugs, users often build up a tolerance. They have to use more and more to get the same high, which is very dangerous with such a toxic drug.

  1. 4. People are dying:

When an amount about the size of two grains of salt can cause an overdose, it’s not surprising that people are dying. Especially when users don’t always know that their drugs contain Fentanyl. Even when you do know, you might be getting street Fentanyl. This is non-regulated and non-pharmaceutical, meaning that it was probably created by a dealer somewhere. The toxicity levels are rarely accurate and the drug is often combined with caffeine, meth or heroin so you really don`t know what you’re getting. Thus far in 2015, there have been 145 deaths connected to Fentanyl in Alberta and 66 in British Columbia. And it is both recreational and long-term users that are dying.

Of course, we don`t encourage recreational drug use in any way, but we want everyone to be especially careful with Fentanyl. The risk of overdose it too large. If you are using Fentanyl or know someone who is, please seek help. While we can`t speak for everyone, we find that opiod use is rarely recreational, and is often a sign of a deeper problem. Drugs and alcohol can take over your life so quickly and once they do, each time you use is a risk. When you seek help, make sure you find a place that you can safely and medically detox under the supervision of a doctor. Our phone lines are always open if you need to talk about opiod abuse or just want more information. 1-800-683-0111

Look for a more in-depth article about Fentanyl in our upcoming fall issue of Phoenix Magazine. Subscribe here:

It is really just social drinking?

There are social situations that some people attend specifically to get drunk, do drugs or both. Places like bars, clubs, vape lounges and parties.  And music festivals. Over the weekend, there were 17 overdoses at the Calgary music festival Chasing Summer.  Ten men and seven women were taken to the hospital over Friday and Saturday. Some are in stable condition, some were in serious but stable condition and one woman was in life-threatening condition. While we can’t speculate on what happened in these specific cases, we do know that certain social situations may highlight and/or magnify a possible problem with addiction.  So how do you know if you have a problem?

1. You choose social situations that allow you to drink or do drugs.

You’re always urging your friends to meet for drinks instead of coffee.  Friends who don’t do drugs have fallen by the wayside; you’d much rather hang out with those who smoke pot like you do.  And forget going to any dry event. You consistently choose to spend your free time in situations where you can freely drink or use drugs, and are less and less interested in people who don’t do the same.

2. You drink or do drugs at times when most other people are sober.

You might be the only one who cracks a beer before noon at the cottage or the only one having mimosas at brunch.  Maybe you like to get high before going to the movies or you drink at work. Fairly often, you’re the only one drinking while everyone else is sober.

3. You use recreational drugs to self-medicate.

You drink to deal with your anxiety or your depression instead of seeing a doctor.  Instead of dealing with painful memories, you get high. Your prescription pain medication says twice a day but you frequently use three or four times that amount.  Anytime you have an emotional or physical problem, you reach for your favourite substance.

If any of this feels familiar, it might be time to seek some help.  We’re here to help our patients get into recovery, and back to enjoying life with a clear mind. You can call us anytime at 1-800-683-0111, or you can email us at [email protected]. You can drop into any one of our clinics in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria or Seattle and see a counsellor.

Seek help before it gets to an overdose. You can still go to music festivals – you might even remember the show this time around.