The Opioid Crisis In Canada

A current trend emerging in the Canadian health care system is the increased use, abuse, and overdoses related to the use of opioids.

Opioids are a class of drugs found naturally in the opium poppy plant that are highly addictive and are usually used to treat severe pain (National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2019). Opioids although highly addictive, are prescribed in many instances for people who suffer serious injuries, undergo surgery or people who are living with chronic illnesses. Use of opioids, lead to dependencies as it affects an individual’s mind, causing euphoria (Government of Canada, 2019). A crisis is beginning to emerge as many illegal street drugs in Canada are being contaminated with opioids leading to overdose and death in most cases. Many drug dealers add opioids such as fentanyl to their illegal product to increase the potency at a low cost (Government of Canada, 2019). This is extremely dangerous as one cannot see, taste or smell this substance, resulting in high risk of death as people unknowingly use the drug contaminated with fentanyl and the consumption of the high dose of the added drug would most likely be lethal to the individual (Government of Canada, 2019).

Factors contributing to this opioid crisis is the high rates of doctors prescribing these addictive drugs and the addition of these strong synthetic drugs to illegal recreational drugs (Government of Canada, 2019). The risk of overdose with fentanyl use is extremely high as its’ potency is a hundred times more than morphine and a dose of about a few salt crystals is lethal to most adults (Government of Canada, 2019). This crisis is devastating many communities all over Canada due to overdoses and death related to these drugs. In the first six months of 2018, more than two thousand Canadians died due to opioid related overdoses of which ninety-four percent were considered accidental and approximately three quarters were the result of fentanyl and related substances (Canadian Institute for Health Information [CIHI], 2018).

Steps taken to alleviate this issue and reduce the amount of accidental overdose related deaths would have to be the legalization of marijuana in Canada. Although controversial in Canada, many cannabis users are now able to acquire safely dispensed marijuana reducing the risk of contaminated illegal street drugs. Another initiative is the Good Samaritan Act in Ontario, that protects people from being charged with possession of or use of illegal drugs, if the individual calls for emergency medical services for someone overdosing (Jung, 2018). Also, bringing awareness to the subject and educating people about the dangers of opioids in schools and from doctors and pharmacists can help people avoid narcotic and other substance abuse. As an individual, one can make a positive impact on this trend and issue by taking all prescription drugs as prescribed by a medical professional. Additionally, if one happens to be a bystander to someone experiencing an overdose, immediately call 911 to potentially save a life.

This current issue affects the pharmacy profession as naloxone kits in the form of injection or nasal spray are available free of charge and without prescription at many pharmacies and community organizations to help combat overdose related deaths. Naloxone is a drug that can temporarily reverse the effects from an opioid overdose and can potentially save someone’s life while they wait for first responders for further medical assistance (Government of Canada, 2019). Many regulated pharmacy technicians are involved in making a difference in this way as they can assist in training people, along with pharmacists, on how to use the devices in the naloxone kits to save an individual’s life.

In conclusion, the occurrence of opioid and fentanyl related overdoses are causing deaths all over Canada as its’ contamination in street drugs is becoming more prevalent. Due to these dangers, the province, the country and pharmacies all over are creating helpful initiatives to help eradicate this issue.

References

  • Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). (2018). Latest Data on the Opiod Crisis. Retrieved from: https://www.cihi.ca/en/latest-data-on-the-opioid-crisis
  • Government of Canada. (2019). Fentanyl. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/fentanyl.html
  • Government of Canada. (2019). Opioids and the Opioid Crisis – Get the Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/get-the-facts.html
  • Jung, C. (December, 2018). The Good Samaritan Act: How Are You Protected? Oatley Vigmond: Ontario’s Personal Injury Law Firm. Retrieved from: https://oatleyvigmond.com/good-samaritan-act-protected/
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2019). Perscription Opioids. Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids