Canada opi­oid abuse a ‘health emer­gency’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

OT­TAWA: Deaths from opi­ate over­doses in Canada have be­come a “pub­lic health cri­sis” that could prompt the gov­ern­ment to de­clare a na­tional health emer­gency, the Cana­dian Health Min­is­ter said Fri­day. If such a mea­sure is found “ap­pro­pri­ate and help­ful,” then “we will use all the tools avail­able,” Jane Philpott said in Ot­tawa at the open­ing of a na­tional sum­mit on the cri­sis. Oth­ers par­tic­i­pants re­in­forced the sense of urgency. An es­ti­mated 2,000 Cana­di­ans died from opi­oid over­doses in 2015, said Don Davies, spokesman for the left-lean­ing New Demo­cratic Party.

“Many prov­inces are see­ing an even higher num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties in 2016,” he added. “When you have 700-plus deaths oc­cur­ring in On­tario each year, a sim­i­lar num­ber in Bri­tish Columbia, grow­ing num­bers in places like Al­berta and Man­i­toba, I think there is a so­ci­etal un­der­stand­ing that we need to act ur­gently and ef­fec­tively,” On­tario Health Min­is­ter Eric Hask­ins said. Ex­perts say the cri­sis is be­ing fu­eled by the pro­lif­er­a­tion of coun­ter­feits of opi­ates such as fen­tanyl, a pow­er­ful seda­tive that caused the death of pop icon Prince in April.

In Bri­tish Columbia, au­thor­i­ties recorded 332 fa­tal fen­tanyl over­doses dur­ing the first nine months of this year, three more than last year. The drug is be­lieved to be 100 times more po­tent than mor­phine. “A lethal dose of pure fen­tanyl for a typ­i­cal adult can be as lit­tle as two mil­ligrams, or the size of a few grains of ta­ble salt,” the fed­eral po­lice said. The health care in­dus­try also took on some blame for opi­oid painkiller pre­scrip­tion prac­tices, which of­ten lead to ad­dic­tion. “We also rec­og­nize that opi­oid pre­scrib­ing pat­terns are one of the many con­tribut­ing fac­tors to this cri­sis,” the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion said.

Ot­tawa res­i­dent Donna May said her daugh­ter be­came hooked af­ter a doc­tor pre­scribed the opi­ate OxyCon­tin fol­low­ing a fall on a stair­case. Her daugh­ter’s ad­dic­tion prompted her to buy fen­tanyl on the streets af­ter her OxyCon­tin pre­scrip­tion ran out, and she even­tu­ally ended up home­less, May told state broad­caster CBC be­fore speak­ing at the con­fer­ence.

“It even­tu­ally led to her con­tract­ing a flesh-eat­ing dis­ease and tak­ing her life.” Solv­ing the cri­sis, Philpott said, must in­volve in­creas­ing the num­ber of med­i­cally su­per­vised in­jec­tion cen­ters as well as the use of nalox­one-which coun­ter­acts the ef­fects of over­doses-by first re­spon­ders in the field.

Van­cou­ver-the only Cana­dian city that al­lows in­tra­venous drug users to in­ject them­selves with il­le­gal sub­stances un­der med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion-cur­rently has a sin­gle in­jec­tion cen­ter. How­ever, Mon­treal is set to open three, along with a mo­bile clinic. Philpott said she wants to speed up the open­ing of cen­ters “in com­mu­ni­ties that need them” by amend­ing Canada’s drug law, which is de­lay­ing the process. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment has al­ready changed the law to make nalox­one avail­able over the counter and dis­trib­ute it to fed­eral po­lice of­fi­cers for ad­min­is­ter­ing to vic­tims.

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