The epidemic of opioid addiction is claiming the lives of thousands ofCanadians every year. Opioids are a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that workby reacting with opioid receptors in our cells (Krieger, 2017). Opioids also inducea feeling of euphoria in the user, giving them the potential to be usedirresponsibly. Opioids can be obtained in a variety of ways, from something as simpleas prescribed prescriptions to more dangerous illegal methods. Canada is in thecentre of a crisis, with the abuse and epidemic of opioid use. The most commonforms of opioids used in Canada are heroin and illicit fentanyl. Throughout majority of the twentieth century, it was widely believed amongstprofessionals that the prolonged use of opioids for the treatment of chronicpain was ineffective. Although, around the 1990’s, a significant change occurred,and a significant increase in the yearly usage of opioids for various treatmentswere seen (Ubelacker, 2017).
A major complication occurring from this increasewas that people started to use opioids for non-medical/recreational purposes.Despite all that, opioids were and still are some of the most effective drugsfor the relief of pain and suffering felt by an individual. Canada’s opioid epidemic can be traced back to its roots in 1992. It wascaused by a drug called OxyContin created by the company Purdue Pharma.
It wasintroduced as a method to improve the “efficiency and quality of painmanagement” (Robertson and Howeltt, 2017). This drug instantly became popularfor over a decade, and was one of the most lucrative pharmaceutical inventionsto hit the market (Robertson and Howlett, 2017). As time progressed, problems insociety started to emerge with the implementation of this drug.
OxyContin wasnot a commercial success because although it was effective at treating pain, itwas also highly addictive. Patients who were prescribed to the pills for treatments,such as back pain, were becoming dependent upon them. Some patients becameaddicted and required stronger and stronger doses for effective treatments astime went on (Robertson and Howlett, 2017). From this, we can see that a major contributor to the opioid addictionfaced by many people is the tolerance they build while taking these drugs. Usersof these drugs become so used to the effects of these drugs that eventuallythey are ineffective and require stronger doses to effectively treat the user. Accordingto the Canadian Institute for Health Information, an average of 16 people are admittedto the hospital every day for opioid overdoses (Howlett, 2017). This number isvery large, and has been aided by the rise of readily available drugs distributedby street vendors illegally. This opioid addiction is furthered by the lack of control from theGovernment of Canada on the distribution and over-prescription of these drugs,as well as on the control and regulation of the illegal sales of opioids.
The mostcommonly overprescribed painkillers, are oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl(“About Opioids”, n.d.).
These drugs are extremely powerful and potent. Withthe arrival of illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, the opioid addiction hasbeen furthered. This is the case as these synthetic opioids exist in the form ofcheap drugs such as heroine and cocaine and are sold by street dealers readily.Unfortunately, despite the evidence regarding the addictive nature ofopioids, they are one of the most effective and quick methods for pain relief.
The opioid crisis is important because it brings to light the consequential issueregarding the greed for power and money between companies that are supposedlymaking drugs to help us. For example, Purdue Pharma knew of the side effectsand the addictive nature of the OxyContin drug that they released, but theyrefused to acknowledge it as they were making billions of dollars. To makematters worse, other companies started to compete to produce this drug, as theysaw the financial benefits and wanted to be allowed into the market as well(Robertson and Howlett, 2017). As of right now, the Government of Canada does not have a solution or aplan for the opioid crisis.
Although, Dr. Paul Cary from Cambridge, Ontariostates that the solution to the opioid crisis is extremely simple. He says thatthe College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario could stop the opioid crisisif they banned doctors from lecturing other doctors if they were paid(sponsored) by drug companies (“Cambridge doctor says solution to opioid crisis’extremely simple'”, 2017). Drug companies such as Purdue Pharma pay doctors tomake presentations at continuing education events, and even provide them withdrug samples and teaching aids (“Cambridge doctor says solution to opioidcrisis ‘extremely simple'”, 2017).
Using techniques like this, companies canheavily market their products to unsuspecting listeners and increase the use oftheir drug. Thus, if we were to stop the sponsoring of lecturers, we would beable to treat patients without a bias towards specific drugs. Another solution, for the opioid crisis, is an increase in the amount ofaddiction science taught to doctors. In recent years, we have found and createdtreatments for the addiction of drugs, especially if diagnosed in the earlystages. In present day, this method of using addiction science to treat patientsusually results in failure, due to the lack of knowledge in treatment optionsby the doctors (Klimas, 2017). From this, a myriad of problems for untreatedpatients can occur.
An example of this is when Purdue Pharma told doctors that OxyContinwas not addictive, and this lie created the opioid problem that we have inCanada today (Klimas, 2017).This addiction of opioids could have been easily prevented by bettertraining of our doctors and the implementation of interventions that we havedeveloped (Klimas, 2017). For treating the opioid addiction, the drug suboxonecould have been used. In the past, there were restrictions and only a small numberof physicians could prescribe the drug. However, now in current medicalpractices, barriers have been lifted to make suboxone readily available to morepeople. Suboxone is used as a first line of treatment for the patient and is benefitingthe lives of those that are addicted. In conclusion, opioids are a dangerous category of prescription drugs.
The overdose of opioids is a major problem and is claiming the lives ofthousands of Canadians every year. While drug companies may advertise theirproducts as safe and effective, doctors and users must always keep in mind thepotential hazards that can occur. With modern day advancements in medicine andthe increased awareness in issues surrounding opioid addiction, we can start totreat these addictions properly. The government should promote use of suboxoneand a long-term treatment plan for the people who are affected by this crisis.
Wemust however start the implementation of solutions immediately as this crisis,if left untreated, will only get worse.