It’s no secret that opioid addiction is on the rise in Canada. Opioids are a drug that act on opioid receptors and produce effects similar to those produced on morphine. They are most often prescribed by medical professionals to relieve pain, however, are one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs.
Money spent on the medication used for addiction to painkillers racked up a total of 93 million dollars in 2014, versus 57.3 million in 2011 — making it cause for concern for the federal government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participated in a ride along through Vancouver’s downtown eastside, accompanied by Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Saijan as well as a member of the Vancouver police department. Following his firsthand glimpse into the devastating effects of opioid addiction, Trudeau identified that the number of drug overdose deaths is particularly high in British Columbia, having claimed a total of 922 lives last year. Although this is a large problem for British Columbia it is not unique to the province.
Trudeau also stated that:
“This is a crisis that seems for most Canadians to very, very far away, something that’s limited to certain tougher parts of town- but we are seeing a spread of opioids across the country.”
Trudeau said he found it was an indelibly moving experience for him, as he was able to hear firsthand experiences from first responders in the Vancouver area. These first responders are exhausted, mentally and physically strained, from coping with hundreads of daily overdoses. Trudeau also had the chance to hear stories from people struggling with addiction.
Trudeau vocalized the federal governments plans to re-introduce hard reduction as “a pillar of our comprehensive drug strategy” by expanding access to the opioid antidote Naloxone. Ottawa is currently attempting to streamline the application process for communities that wish to open safe consumption sites.
Safe consumption sites are medically supervised facilities designed to provide drug users with a clean, stress free environment, that aims to limit the unsafe consumption of illicit drugs. There are only two known safe consumption sites in Canada, although there are plans to open more in areas where the rates of drug related deaths and overdoses are rampant.
According to Trudeau:
“We need to start addressing this as the real societal health problem it actually is.”
He suggested that long term solutions could include more housing and tougher border constraints on packages less than 30 grams.
He went on to assure Canadians:
“There are no barriers to the federal government being able to do exactly what it needs to do. We will ensure resources are available.”