The Silent Epidemic of the Opioid Crisis Among Older Canadians
In recent years, Canada has been grappling with an escalating opioid crisis. This crisis doesn’t discriminate by geography, socioeconomic status, or age, posing its devastating effects even among older Canadians. This article from The Star highlights the alarming state of the crisis among this specific demographic.
The Scale of the Problem
In this overlooked population, the opioid crisis often takes the form of over-prescription, misuse, and dependency on these powerful painkillers. The older population may not align with the ‘typical’ image of opioid misuse, which typically consists of younger, homeless, or criminal individuals. Yet this crisis has been quietly infiltrating the lives of older adults across Ontario and the rest of Canada.
Impact of the Opioid Crisis
Besides causing addiction and overdose, opioids can result in significant side effects and health hazards. Respiratory depression, cognitive impairment, increased risk of fractures caused by falls, and heightened susceptibility to infections are all complications experienced by older adults misusing opioids.
Although physical health impacts are severe, the psychosocial implications should not be underestimated. The opioid crisis can lead to social isolation, loss of independence, and increased mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Economic and Social Impacts
From an economic perspective, the opioid crisis is causing significant strain. The financial burden associated with increased healthcare utilization, disability, and untimely deaths is significant.
Efforts to Combat the Crisis
Canada is engaging various strategies to address this crisis. Some key actions undertaken include:
- Advancing opioid class action: The Canadian government has been actively involved in the Canadian opioid abatement class action, pursuing legal outcomes to hold manufacturers and distributors of opioids accountable.
- Promoting appropriate prescribing: Guidelines and other interventions have been created to promote appropriate and judicious opioid prescribing to older adults.
- Increasing Access to Naloxone: Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversing drug, has been widely dispersed through communities to help counteract overdoses. Community programs provide public access to naloxone and educate individuals on its usage.
- Implementing harm reduction approaches: The inclusion of harm reduction strategies in policies and programs has aided in reducing detrimental health, social, and economic outcomes associated with drug misuse.
The opioid crisis among older Canadians is a pressing public health issue that demands urgent attention and action. Identifying and understanding its unique characteristics in this demographic is essential for developing effectively targeted interventions. While the efforts undertaken to combat this crisis, such as the Canadian opioid abatement class action and the promotion of naloxone, are steps in the right direction, there is much more required to fully address this epidemic.
As a society, we need to shatter the stereotypes associated with opioid misuse. Canadians suffering from opioid misuse aren’t only homeless or involved in criminal activities; they are also our neighbours and our grandparents. They are individuals from every walk of life, every age group, living in every corner of our country. Addressing this crisis is not only a public health imperative; it’s a moral one.