An opioid crisis is currently sweeping North America. Trump formally named the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in October 2017, stating “nobody has seen anything like what is going on now.” The New York Times reports the opioid crisis has become the most fatal drug crisis in America to date. While deaths connected to the abuse of prescription painkillers have plateaued, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has observed a remarkable increase in overdoses of heroin laced with fentanyl, with statistics in certain states rising to indicate that fentanyl is implicated in over 50 percent of overdoses resulting in death. Fentanyl is a synthetic substance which is far more potent than heroin, and can be easily combined with other drugs. The New York Times further reports that in America, the primary reason for deaths under the age of 50 is drug overdose. Opioids are found at the epicentre of this issue, and the people affected are proving to be younger than ever before.
Prime Minister Trudeau has not declared the crisis to be an official state of emergency, although he has spoken out on the issue. Trudeau addressed the city of Vancouver earlier this year, discussing the tragic impact the opioid crisis has made on people and their families across Canada. British Columbia has experienced a particularly high number of opioid-related deaths, with the number of overdoses resulting in death in 2017 reaching over 1,100. CBC News further reports that fentanyl is strongly suspected to have played a role in 83 percent of such mortalities this year. Fentanyl can be found notably in heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines.
There is considerable disagreement surrounding what is to be done to combat the opioid crisis. Implementing prescription drug monitoring programs, having systems in place to help those who are already addicted, and the possibility for safe injection sites which can monitor the drug content have all been proposed solutions. Currently, the majority of addiction cases are being treated with medication to help combat the addiction. While most health professionals agree more drastic steps need to be taken, it is up to the government to take the next step and make changes on a greater scale.
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