BY AUSTIN WELLS
Earlier this month, the Canadian government created a website titled “Responding to Canada’s Opioid Crisis.” The page itself contains a number of links to research and statistics, but its main point is: Canada is embroiled in a crisis.
According to statistics, opioid-related overdoses caused over 4,000 deaths in Canada in 2017, up from the 2,600 recorded in 2016. The death count is steadily rising, in part due to the rise in fentanyl’s presence in street drugs and in part due to the rise in prescribing opioid painkillers. Fentanyl, an extremely strong opioid, has been making its way into street drugs such as cocaine, leading to people unwittingly consuming and overdosing on the drug.
The fact that the government and local businesses are starting to recognize this as a serious crisis is encouraging, but more still needs to be done. Cambridge, in particular, has explored the idea of safe injection sites, where people can manage their opioid addictions in a sterile, managed and controlled environment. Unfortunately, the provincial parties are divided on whether they are in favour of these sites, which is concerning because of the need for a unanimous agreement on an issue that is this serious and deadly.
Additionally, putting greater emphasis on stocking Nalaxone kits in places like schools, clinics and bars and educating both students/customers and teachers/business owners should be crucial. A priority of both the provincial and municipal governments should be education in order to start to combat this growing crisis.
The media and government are correctly labelling this as a crisis, and so it should be a collective effort as a country and as a community to put an end to it before it gets too far out of hand. Increasing the number of safe injection sites and the availability of Nalaxone kits around the province should be the first course of action, but government and citizens alike should educate themselves and each other to avoid inadvertent or unnecessary consumption.
One in eight Canadian adults, according to a recently released poll, know someone who is addicted to opioid painkillers. Educating the addicts and their family members on how to manage addiction, what the signs are, and how to move forward without endangering themselves or others should be a high priority in the wake of this crisis.
As more people become aware of the dangers of opioids and the presence of fentanyl on the street, the more likely it is that the number of deaths will decrease. Canada as a nation can combat and end this crisis, but it requires unity and awareness as a society to do so.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.