Every year, the amount of people abusing opiates in Ontario, Canada climbs. The overdose numbers grow and the root of the problem is so large that most health officials have no idea where to begin. All ages and social backgrounds are affected by opiates and what makes it even harder to control is that most addicts begin using due to legal prescriptions. It would be one thing if you decided to take an illegal drug and got hooked, it's another thing to be prescribed a medication from your doctor that leads to dependency. Opiate addiction ruins lives. Finances run dry, careers takes a hit because of the inability to be consistent due to the stresses of being an addict.
During the past ten years, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has reported an alarming statistic. The district had thirty percent more emergency room visits due to opiate abuse than the rest of the province and in 2013, Simcoe County lost six people to Fentanyl overdoses. “It is disturbing when you see numbers like what we’re seeing, taking huge jumps and having tragic consequences,” Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit nurse Diane Baranik said. Baranik works in the substance misuse prevention program but can only guess why county citizens have an opiate problem. “We don’t really work with addiction, we work to prevent the destruction it can cause to their lives” says Baranik.
According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Oxycodone prescriptions rose 850 percent in Canada between 1991 and 2007. Health Canada has since approved a new formulation of Oxycontin called Oxyneo. This new formula makes it harder for abusers to take the drug in non-prescribed ways, such as crushing, snorting, or through injection. Addicts however, still find ways to get high. Some turn to Fentanyl which is a synthetic opiate analgesic. “Part of what we’re hearing students telling us is that it’s easy to get. They’re getting them from their parents’ medicine cabinets,” Baranik said. Fentanyl is a drug whose popularity has jumped dramatically because of the tamper proofing being added to many prescription painkillers. Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine and 40 times stronger than heroin.
The 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey states that 70 percent of teenagers are getting their opiates from home. They simply raid their parents medicine cabinets. It is easy to take a couple of pills from the bottle without making it too noticeable. Those pills however make their way out of the home and are abused by the teen who took them and often shared with friends. It is important to note that the problem in Ontario is not just teens. In fact, the teens age group is not the largest group to abuse opiates. Provincial statistics show the medial age for opiate overdose deaths in Ontario last year was between 31-51 years old.
Ontario has its work cut out for the upcoming year. Health officials are coming together all over the province trying to figure out new ways to combat the growing numbers of addicts. All of these groups agree that the most important thing is education and teaching the residents of Ontario about the dangers of opiates. The more people that have knowledge on the problem, the greater the chance that the numbers of deaths will reduce.