EDITORIAL: Drug epidemic calls for better solutions overdoses rise

Nov 10, 2023 | Editorial

COVID-19 has contributed significantly to the current overdose crisis that is still affecting Canadians.

Canada’s illicit drug supply is the primary source of the high rates of overdoses and fatalities, and the crisis has only gotten worse. Since the beginning of 2022, Ontario has recorded 2,501 opioid overdoses.

The drug overdose epidemic has proven to be a bigger issue as more Canadians fall victim to overdoses.

A Canadian government report suggested opioid-related deaths are projected to be between about 1,920 deaths to 2,320 deaths for the year by next month.

There shouldn’t be room for drug addictions in a country where people are entitled to drug rehab through our healthcare system.

With about 21 deaths from drug-related overdoses a day, it should be obvious that years of drug-related mass criminalization has been a failure of policy, and punitive measures only serve to inflate these risks.

Now is the time to embrace science and evidence in order to save lives, and to get rid of outdated tactics. We need to reframe the way we approach addiction as a public health concern and give individuals who are struggling with it access to resources and treatment.

According to the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, several individuals who are homeless experience severe trauma.The report states that those who are homeless may abuse drugs as a coping mechanism.

The Ontario provincial government has instituted many initiatives to address the opioid crisis it is currently facing. The supervised consumption services (SCS), which allows drug users to consume narcotics in a safe environment while being closely observed by medical personnel with training, helps reduce overdoses over time.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau constantly proclaims himself an advocate to help solve the drug crisis, he has not made any changes to ensure a positive outcome. Instead, Bill C-7, a bill that gives individuals the chance to seek Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) came into effect March 2021, allows individuals suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders to receive assistance from a medical practitioner in ending their life.

Instead of providing people an option for assisted death, a better strategy would be to implement a program to prevent people from overdosing.

The Canadian government has already taken a number of steps to address the current crisis, including increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug that reduces the effects of an opioid overdose.

These supportive measures by themselves are not nearly enough.

The Canadian government remains committed to using an all-encompassing and evidence-based approach to address both the epidemic and the underlying causes of the problematic drug use over the long term.

Better long-term programs are needed to help drug users across the country, and these programs need better funding and leadership with insight on how to deal with the problem.