Drug the increased use and misuse of opioids
Drug abuse is commonly known in today’s society as a disease that attacks individuals without a warning. It is commonly understood that the abuse of drugs, specifically opioids, can have a negative effect on the individual abusing. Not only does drug abuse severely impact the individual, but society as a whole. A social challenge that Canadians and Americans are facing today is the fentanyl drug crisis that has caused an unprecedented drug safety and public health crisis. As fentanyl death rates continue to increase, there is a desperate need for change. With the increased use and misuse of opioids over the years, fentanyl has gone from a simple painkiller to a major c threat to Canadian and American societies. The powerful painkiller that has contributed to the drug safety and public health crisis is known as fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is known for being incredibly potent. Opioids are drugs that are classed as painkiller that attack the nervous system resulting in relief from severe pain. Fentanyl gives one similar effects as morphine and heroin, but is said to be about 100 times stronger. The effects of fentanyl can evokes elated emotions, reduces stress and anxiety, relaxation, and releases dopamine into the brain. All these effects are similar to the high one would experiences with heroine, but seek fentanyl for a stronger high. Fentanyl was first introduced in the 60’s and was developed by Dr. Paul Janssen. The drug was initially used for medical purposes as a anaesthetic or pain reliever. A few years after the opioid was developed, it was used as an intravenous anaesthetic and was referred to as sublimaze. It was not until the 90’s that fentanyl patches and oral options were introduced. The patches and oral options were produced as pain relievers for cancer patients and chronic pain. The fentanyl that sweeps the streets of Canada and the US is extremely different and more potent than the prescription fentanyl that was developed decades ago. Many doctors and pharmacists have expressed their concern about the severe opioid that is being produced on the streets. Dr. David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto said, ” there has never been a more dangerous time to source drugs on the street.” (CIBC new, 2016).Those seeking fentanyl are typically abusing the drug without a prescription which leads to the drug being taken a higher dosages or mixed with other common drugs. These are two factors are related to the high fatality rate of the drug. In regards to the illicit use of fentanyl, many wonder where the drug is being produced and distributed too. Most fentanyl that is found in Canada and the US is created by chemical companies in China. Theses companies manipulate the pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl by slightly tweaking it, making it a much more dangerous version of itself. The fentanyl that is being developed in China only takes a few hundred micrograms to give the user a heroine like-euphoria. In perspective, a few hundred micrograms would be equivalent to about a grain of salt. Therefore, it would take a very minimal amount to actual overdose. Statistics have shown the major climb in opioid related overdoses around the world, but claim that Prescription painkillers and illicit fentanyl are together fuelling a national epidemic of opioid-related overdoses in Canada. It is said that crisis is affecting every region in Canada and has claimed the lives of over 2 800 people last year (The Globe and Mail,2017). Grim statistics later relieved that on average, 8 people are are dying every single day due to opioid and fentanyl related deaths. No region in Canada is safe from this crisis, especially Western Canada, the regions that has suffered this most from this crisis. In this first 10 months of 2016, British Columbia experienced 622 unintentional overdose deaths from illicit drug use. Of these 622 deaths, 332 were related to fentanyl (Global News, 2016). As for Alberta, since the beginning of 2016 to October of 2016, there has been around 338 deaths related to opioid overdoses. Of those, 198 were linked to fentanyl. These statistics show the severity of fentanyl and other opioids in two provinces for not even a year. Overdose rates have increase from 2016 to 2017 meaning the issue is still present to this day and worse. With the death rates from opioids and fentanyl continuing to rise, many start to wonder how opioid addiction got to this point. The inactivity of community leaders like police, government leaders, doctors, pharmacists, and border officials have left Canada in a state of fear from a drug that might not be around due to a decision made years ago. As stated before, until the 1990’s opioids and fentanyl were only prescribed and used on patients who were suffering with severe chronic pain, and for cancer treatment. This changed in 1996 when Health Canada approved the use of oxycontin for patients suffering with moderate-to-severe pain. Oxycontin is known as a synthetic opioid that also gives one similar effects to morphine. After oxycontin got approved by Health Canada, there were some major changes that occurred in the treatment for pain. Oxycontin became very common for those suffering the slightest pain like headaches and backaches to arthritis. Doctors started prescribing oxycontin for everything which cause the drug to quickly become the top-selling drug in Canada. When oxycontin started to become super common, so did reports of addiction and overdoses in the 2000’s. Studies had shown that between the years of 1999 to 2004, deaths related to overdose and addiction to oxycontin had dramatically increased. This shows how quickly the over prescription of drugs can get out of hand. Addictions and overdoses were not only popular with those who were prescribed oxycontin, but also those who were seeking a high similar to heroin. Once the crisis was made aware to others there was a crackdown on the drugs being made. This forces drug companies to make and sell drugs that were not only much weaker but, harder to crush making it more difficult for abuser to inject or snort. This seemed like a good idea at the times but, inevitably caused drug abuses and patients to seek other more addictive painkillers. Oxycontin although is not to blame completely for the fentanyl drug crisis but, is simply a notable factor that has an effect on the misuse and abuse of opioids in Canada. The introduction of opioid addiction with oxycontin is not the only factor that has lead to the fentanyl crisis being faced today. Another factor is the availability of fentanyl to Canadian citizens. The dangerous opioid can easily be found by anyone by a quick google search. Anyone can order the drug online from China, and it will be mailed to your door. These online suppliers from China are exploiting the gaps at the border making it easy to ship these illicit drugs across the border. In Canada, it is illegal to import fentanyl without a licence or permit because it is considered a controlled substance. When a drug is classified as a controlled substance, this means that manufacturing, possession, and use is regulated by the government. Therefore, if anyone is caught with possession or using fentanyl, they will likely get charged and or convicted. Online suppliers have found a gap in the systems allowing them to supply fentanyl around the world. These online suppliers have come up with several ways to conceal the drugs and pass them through inspection. This can easily be done due to the fact that packages under 30-grams do not get opened. The means that suppliers ship their drug in packages under the 30 grams, ensuring the border agents do not open and inspect the package. One supplier from China says he conceals purchased fentanyl with urine strips. The fentanyl is hidden in silica-desiccant packets that are then placed inside with the urine strips. When prescription opioid and fentanyl abuse was the only problem there was a chance for the Government to address the issue. Now that many addicts are resulting to drug that are manufactured in different countries without government control, it is nearly impossible to address and fix the problem at hand. Availability of fentanyl is a major factor that relates to the increasing fatality rate of the drug but, many people who overdose from fentanyl do not even realize that is what they are taking. Dr. Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, said “We are facing two different but overlapping issues: first, overdose deaths from prescription opioids and second, overdose deaths from illicit drugs laced with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids,” (TheGlobeandMail,2016). The incredibly dangerous drug hasa being making its way into common party drugs like cocaine, heroine, MDMA, ecstasy, and even marijuana. New statistics have shown that the number of street drugs testing positive for fentanyl has increased more than 40% across the country from last year (GlobalNews, 2016). Every province in Canada has seen a noticeable increase in fentanyl laced drugs but, British Columbia has experienced a striking increase. The western province saw an increase of almost 100 percent going from 604 samples testing positive for fentanyl in 2015, to 1194 in 2016 (GlobalNews, 2016). Many Canadians are aware of the powerful drug that is causing a epidemic of overdoses but, it is concerning for many when the drug is being found in street drugs that are not opioids. Unfortunately, it is not only the people who are abusing daily that in danger but, it is all occasional user and even first times users. It is sadly not unrealistic for one to try ecstasy or cocaine for the first time and it be their last due to lacing with fentanyl. Many Canadians have expressed their opinion on the crisis and whether there is anything being done by the government to really try and eliminate this drug crisis. It is believed that the appearance of fentanyl in street drugs is due to a major failing on behave of the Canadian government and law enforcement. Society is numb to drug abuse, the government is aware of the crisis, but nothing is being done to help those suffering. Canadian government has not changed the rules regarding distribution of prescription drugs since 2011. Meanwhile, the United States and other countries have made adequate changes regarding guidelines around avoiding the prescription of opioids. Statistics have even proven this, showing the prescription drug sales have even increased from 18 million in 2014 t0 19.1 million in 2015 (TheGlobeAndMail, 2016). It is evident that this is a serious crisis and in situations like this, it is important to act fast before things get out of hand but, previous government have made this difficult. For example, in the early 2000’s North America’s first legal injection site opened and was called insite. This was a place that allowed addicts to safely inject drugs under the supervision of medical health care professionals. This site was proven to be very beneficial due to the fact that the overdose rate had decreased. Despite the fact that insite was useful in the vancouver society, Stephen Harper’s conservatives attempt to shut it down. Although they were not successful, laws were regulated under the legislation making it extremely difficult for another safe injection facility to open. Many people today like harm reduction advocates are demanding for a change and explain that pop up safe injection sites are needed now more than ever. Not only is there a severe need for more safe injection sites, there is also a need for awareness on the drug naloxone and its availability. Naloxone is a drug that has recently become very common due to the opioid drug crisis. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the body and can actually reverse the effects of an overdose. This drug is commonly distributed by first aid responder, doctors, and paramedics to individuals who are experiencing an opioid overdose. The drug started off being only available to individuals with a prescription for it but, as the crisis became more severe, the demand for the prescription-only status to be reviewed. Since March 2016, Health Canada changed the status of naloxone more readily available to the public. Now, pharmacies are able to distribute naloxone to anyone who may have to witness and overdose happen or anyone who may experience an overdose themselves. Canadians need to be aware of how accessible the life saving drug naloxone is so that future overdoses can be prevented.