News Local

Methadone clinic opens

By Pete Fisher, Northumberland Today

PETE FISHER Northumberland TodayDr. Mike Semoff in his new office in Cobourg, located in the Pentel Plaza on William Street.

PETE FISHER Northumberland TodayDr. Mike Semoff in his new office in Cobourg, located in the Pentel Plaza on William Street.

COBOURG -- A first of its kind doctor's office is opening up in Cobourg this week, specializing in the treatment of addictions.

Dr. Mike Semoff, who operates offices in Durham region and Peterborough, will be opening the satellite office here in town today.

While contractors worked throughout the office to complete construction, Dr. Semoff sat down for an exclusive interview last week.

Originally Dr. Semoff worked as a family physician, but has since specialized in addiction medicine for nearly 15 years.

"The incidents of Oxycontin abuse has skyrocketed," Dr. Semoff said from his Cobourg office, located in the Pentel Plaza on William Street. "I focus mostly in the field of opioids because we've got a real crisis happening, especially in the past 10 years."

In a published article online, Dr. John Weekes, Senior Research Analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, states Oxycontin "is used medically as a prescription painkiller to control moderate to severe pain, chronic pain, and pain related to cancer and other debilitating and terminal conditions. It is often used when other opioids such as codeine or morphine have not been effective or when patients experience intolerable side effects with these medications."

Most people who abuse Oxycontin do so to have an euphoric effect and to avoid withdrawal symptoms. One of the slang terms used for the drug is called 'Hillbilly Heroin.'

Oxycodone addiction has the fastest growing rate of addicts in teenagers, Dr. Semoff said.

"It's because traditionally drug traffickers will prey more on the young, naive people who are weaker," he said. "Once you have an addiction, it's there for the rest of your life whether or not one is using or not."

Although every addiction is a struggle to stay 'clean,' Dr. Semoff said it is much harder with opiates like Oxycodone because they mimic naturally occurring compounds in the body.

Since 1997, patients from the Cobourg area have had to travel to his offices in Durham region and Peterborough. Because some of the people who are addicted tend to be in the lowest economic levels, Dr. Semoff "bit the bullet" and decided to open the office in Cobourg.

"The Canada Health Act says health care should be universal and accessible to all of us," he said. "Peterborough is very well serviced with clinics and they don't need me there and I can have a much bigger impact here."

Although a doctor can prescribe methadone in a hospital environment, a doctor working outside the hospital has to be specially licensed by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Dr. Semoff explained that although any opioid could be an addicting drug, methadone is the only one that can produce a "physiology normal state."

When a person is addicted to an Oxycodone, Dr. Semoff said a person goes from a state of euphoria to withdrawal.

"So everyone out there thinks they are using all the drugs to stay in a perpetual state of high, but the reality is, if they don't take that the withdrawal makes them so sick," he said.

With methadone, when a person is at a stable dose, they only need to take it once every 24 hours to maintain the feeling of normal.

"If the addict uses methadone instead of having up and down level of drugs, they can have a steady state," Dr. Semoff said.

Dr. Semoff said people who are addicted to Oxycodone may have be unstable, sick, in trouble with the law, are prescribed methadone, they feel better, feel "normal" and can work and take care of their family.

There are two pharmacies in Cobourg that have administered methadone for over 10 years to patients in Cobourg, but Dr. Semoff's office is the only one he is aware of in the community specializing in opiate addiction treatment.

Dr. Semoff will also be treating other addictions including heroin and cocaine, but he will be specializing in the addiction of Oxycodone.

The office will be open starting today at the Pentel Plaza on William Street.