Decriminalizing Drugs and Raising the Drinking Age: Innovative Measures in Canada’s Opioid Crisis

Decriminalizing drugs and raising the drinking age could be key players in battling Canada's opioid crisis, shifting focus to health treatment over criminalization.

Decriminalizing Drugs and Raising the Drinking Age: A Response to the Opioid Crisis in Canada

As the prevalence of opioid usage continues to skyrocket nationally, the [Canadian Government]( is proposing offbeat, yet potentially game-changing actions in a quest to combat the opioid crisis. Amid this nationwide struggle, discussions on decriminalizing drugs, increasing the minimum drinking age, and improving access to naloxone have come onto the agenda. These discussions have only amplified the debate and brought these issues into sharper focus for community leaders and citizens.

The Opioid Crisis in Canada: An Overview

The opioid crisis, which has been declared a public health emergency, is characterized by an alarming increase in the misuse of prescription opioid drugs and opioid-related overdose deaths. This public health disaster is fueling an increase in homelessness and crimes, spiraling the situation out of control. According to the Canadian Government, there were 17,602 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada between January 2016 and June 2020. This crisis is far from being just a health issue; it is affecting every aspect of our society.

Proposed Measures to Battle the Crisis

According to the Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, Dr. David Williams, controversial measures such as decriminalizing drugs for personal use and increasing the minimum drinking age to 21 can be part of the solution. These measures aim to prevent the criminalization of individuals battling addiction while providing them access to treatment.


The proposed decriminalization would apply to all drugs, not just opioids. This measure seeks to treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one. By taking this approach, the aim is to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction and encourage individuals to seek help.

Raising the Drinking Age

Raising the drinking age to 21 is another measure that the authorities believe would help combat the opioid crisis. The rationale is that an increase in the drinking age will delay the onset of alcohol use, which often precedes opioid use. Additionally, this might also prevent the progression from alcohol to harder substances.

Improving Access to Naloxone

Improving access to naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids during an overdose, is another critical aspect of this plan. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has pledged his support for police carrying naloxone in their patrol vehicles, referring to it as a “lifesaving drug.”

Key Points of this Proposed Approach

  • Decriminalizing drugs for personal use to treat addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal matter.
  • Raising the drinking age to 21 as a strategy to delay the onset of alcohol use and potentially prevent progression to harder substances.
  • Improving access to naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of opioids, as a critical tool to save lives during opioid overdose incidents.

Moving Forward

While these measures may be unconventional, it’s clear that conventional methods have not entirely addressed the opioid crisis. This crisis warrants a drastic change in strategy and a shift in thinking about drug addiction. With decriminalization, we can focus more on medical interventions and societal support rather than punitive measures. The proposed increase in drinking age, while controversial, could be a significant step in preventing early exposure to substances, while improved access to naloxone is a tool that would undoubtedly prevent many opioid-related deaths.

But these solutions are not the end-all. The opioid crisis transcends a mere public health epidemic, reaching far into societal deficits, mental health concerns, and socio-economic aspects. We will need to tackle the opioid crisis from a multifaceted angle to curb its pervasiveness effectively.

In conclusion, it is clear that the Canadian Government is seeking innovative solutions for the public health emergency that is the opioid crisis. The primary objective of these strategies is to decrease the stigma associated with drug addiction and provide a safer climate for individuals to seek help. However, it’s also important to understand that these proposed measures are part of a larger, more complex strategy required to adequately address the opioid crisis. Ultimately, this crisis’s end will likely come about through the collaboration of various agencies and the steadfast commitment of our communities.


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