File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS An OPP officer displays bags containing fentanyl as Ontario Provincial Police host a news conference in Vaughan, Ont.. Canada’s chief public health officer says the need to increase access to a “safer supply” of opioids is being reviewed with provinces and territories, a move encouraged by a number of public health experts.

Safer opioids actively being reviewed for epidemic: chief public health officer

OTTAWA — Public health officials across the country are seriously considering increasing the supply of safer opioids to quell a crisis that newly released data show helped claim more than 2,000 lives in the first half of the year.

Canada’s chief public health officer said Wednesday a toxic drug supply is a key part of Canada’s opioid epidemic.

Creating a safer opioid supply is “being actively reviewed and discussed” with provinces and territories, Dr. Theresa Tam said, and will require exploring what treatments people require.

Tam said clamping down on the market-driven supply of illicit drugs won’t be easy, adding she also hopes Canadians come to understand the seriousness of the problem.

“Across Canada, not everybody is on the same page,” Tam said. “I think my plea is an escalated, compassionate response. To implement a lot of these measures, you need society to be on side.”

British Columbia’s provincial health officer praised the decision to look at a more safe supply — something the province has long pushed for.

“Right now, the issue that we are dealing with in B.C. and increasing across the country, is the poisonous, toxic street-drug supply,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“That is what is killing people in this province right now. We know, that coupled with the stigma and the fact that people who have addictions, they need these drugs. It is not like it is a choice and they can say ‘Oh, I’m not going to take them anymore.’”

Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, has said a safer supply of opioids is a “no-brainer” to ensure people are not forced to turn to a “deadly, illegal market.”

Figures released Wednesday by the Public Health Agency show that 94 per cent of opioid-related deaths this year were classified as “accidental poisonings.” Nearly 72 per cent were unintentional deaths involving highly toxic fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances.

Fentanyl — a highly potent and addictive opioid — is estimated to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine and is commonly mixed into opioids sold on the street, meaning users don’t know the potency of the drugs they take.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information also reported data on a 27-per-cent increase in hospitalizations due to “opioid-related poisonings” over the past five years. Hospitalization rates last year were 2.5 times higher in smaller communities, with populations between 50,000 and 100,000, compared to Canada’s largest cities, the institute said.

Canadian health-care experts have also encouraged Ottawa to adopt Portugal’s approach to drug policy, which decriminalizes limited amounts of drugs for personal use, while offering education and social supports. Henry argued the Liberals should consider decriminalization.

“The federal government at this point is not look at decriminalizing people at a national basis,” Henry said.

”We are facing a crisis in B.C. where we need to do more.”

opioids

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Bonnie Gustola criticized provincial government layoffs at a rally that drew more than 80 people at City Hall Park on Friday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
More than 80 rally in Red Deer against government health, education cutbacks

Rally at City Hall Park organized by the Council for Canadians

The higher the education level, the higher the income of some 1.3 million post-secondary graduates surveyed between 2010 and 2015, with master's degrees paying off the most. But the findings also suggest that gender and timing matter. (Black Press Media File).
2020 high school grads won’t get their ceremony

Decision announced by Lindsay Thurber and Hunting Hills high schools, and Gateway Christian School

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Mariah Bell of the United States, competes during women's short program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Nathan Chen dominates again in Skate America short program

Nathan Chen dominates again in Skate America short program

Lanto Griffin putts on the ninth hole during the second round of the Zozo Championship golf tournament Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Thomas has a fast start for a 65 and a 1-shot lead at Zozo

Thomas has a fast start for a 65 and a 1-shot lead at Zozo

Mariah Bell of the United States, competes during women's short program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Bell, Tennell go 1-2 in Skate America short program

Bell, Tennell go 1-2 in Skate America short program

Team Saskatchewan skip Matt Dunstone flips his broom in frustration following a shot as they take on Team Alberta in the playoffs at the Brier in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, March 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Team Matt Dunstone considers relocation due to restrictions in Saskatchewan

Team Matt Dunstone considers relocation due to restrictions in Saskatchewan

Police in Ottawa are investigating an incident of hate-motivated graffiti at the National War Memorial. The alleged incident happened last Friday night, when police say a man, shown in a police handout photo, used a sharp object to engrave a hateful message on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. THE CANADIAN PRESSS/HO-Ottawa Police Service MANDATORY CREDIT
Ottawa police investigating hate-motivated graffiti incident at National War Memorial

Ottawa police investigating hate-motivated graffiti incident at National War Memorial

Indigenous fisherman Robert Syliboy stands on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Tensions remain high over an Indigenous-led lobster fishery that has been the source of conflict with non-Indigenous fishermen. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan
For Mi’kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed

For Mi’kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed

Most Read