The Escalation of the Canadian Opioid Crisis: Drug and Alcohol Overdose Deaths Surge in Ontario
The Canadian opioid crisis is currently spiralling out of control, causing an escalating number of accidental fatal overdoses in Ontario, as has been recently reported. Although opioid overdoses led to 679 deaths in 2010, that number more than tripled by 2019, claiming the lives of 2,050 people. The rapidly increasing number of fatalities is particularly alarming, considering that the rise in deaths continues to persist unabated, notwithstanding the significant efforts that have been deployed to combat the crisis.
Impacts of the Opioid Crisis
The Canadian opioid crisis is spawning an overwhelming array of negative effects that are becoming increasingly difficult to manage. The impacts are not only confined to the rapid increase in the number of deaths, but they have far-reaching consequences on the communities grappling with the crisis. The effects are touching on several peripheral issues that have a significant bearing on the health, economic, and societal well-being of Canadians.
A Spike in Crime Rates
The opioid crisis has been linked to a surge in crime rates in communities and neighbourhoods. A majority of these criminal activities revolve around drug trafficking, theft, and violent crimes as some individuals battling addiction resort to these extremes to fund their opioid use.
Homelessness is another facet of society that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. Chronic substance use has compromised the ability of many individuals to maintain stable housing, leading to an increased rate of homelessness. This trend has particularly been reported in major urban areas across Canada.
The Spread of Infectious Diseases
Sharing needles and syringes, a common practice among people battling opioid addiction, has led to a rise in the spread of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV. The healthcare system is consequently grappling with this spreading health concern atop the substance abuse crisis itself.
Efforts to Combat the Opioid Crisis
Several measures have been implemented in an attempt to curb the opioid crisis. These strategies include:
- Provision of Naloxone: Naloxone, an emergency medication used to block the opioids’ effects during an overdose incident, is being widely distributed. The medication has saved countless lives, although the rising fatalities mean more still needs to be done.
- Opioid Class Action: In some instances, legal action has been taken to hold responsible those who have played a significant role in triggering or exacerbating the crisis. The opioid class action is one example, which involves lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
- Therapeutic measures: Efforts to provide comprehensive therapeutic measures such as counselling, safe injection sites, and rehabilitation programs are on the rise. These initiatives aim to help affected people recover and reintegrate back into society, cutting the demand for opioids.
- Policing and legislation: On the legal front, new legislation and policing have been reinforced to remedy the situation. Law enforcement agencies are collaborating with health organizations to intercept illicit drug supply chains, and to provide necessary support to persons battling addiction.
The Canadian opioid crisis is significantly impacting the lives of many citizens, with adverse consequences seen in fatalities, criminal activities, homelessness, and the spread of infectious diseases. Measures taken thus far, including the provision of naloxone, opioid class action, therapeutic measures, and enhanced policing and legislation, have shown some promise. Nonetheless, a concerted, multi-pronged approach is vital in turning the tide on this crisis. It is abundantly clear that solving the opioid crisis is not simply about dealing with the drugs. We must address the root causes of why these drugs are needed in the first place, and continue to support those in recovery while tackling social issues like homelessness and crime associated with opioid use. This fight is one we must collectively take on, to protect our communities and future generations.