Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2006
Source: Ring, The (U of Victoria, CN BC Edu)
Copyright: 2006 The Ring


A new study conducted in seven Canadian cities reveals that 
prescription painkillers known as opioids are becoming Canada's 
leading street drugs. The findings raise questions about the current 
focus of Canada's drug control policy and treatment programs.

A team led by Dr. Benedikt Fischer, a researcher with the Centre for 
Addictions Research (CARBC) at the University of Victoria, published 
its findings in the Nov. 21 issue of the Canadian Medical Association 
Journal. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health 
Research (CIHR).

Commonly prescribed opioids in Canada include Oxycontin, morphine, 
Demerol, Percodan and Tylenol 3 or 4.

"Our study suggests that heroin use has become an increasingly 
marginal form of drug use among illicit opioid users in Canada, 
especially outside Vancouver and Montreal," says Fischer.

Heroin use was substantially prevalent only in Vancouver and 
Montreal. It was de facto absent in smaller cities like Edmonton, 
Quebec City or Fredericton. And, in all study sites, there was a 
significant decline of heroin use among participants between 2001 and 2005.

Fischer also highlights that in a large number of cases prescription 
opioids used by street drug users originate from the medical system 
and not from illicit production and distribution.

The secondary and reduced relevance of heroin compared to 
prescription opioids among illicit opioid users has implications for 
drug control policy and treatment programs, which primarily focus on 
heroin abuse and dependence.

"Our drug control policies ought to be targeting prescription opioid 
abuse more effectively," says Fischer. "But we also need to ensure we 
don't compromise legitimate access to and uses of prescription opioids."

"Although there have been reports on the increased levels of 
prescription opioid abuse in Canada and other jurisdictions, there 
has until now not been a systematic documentation of usage patterns 
among street drug users," says Dr. Remi Quirion, scientific director 
of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

"This study provides us with the scientific evidence needed to 
improve public policy and treatment programs. Such research is key to 
ultimately improving the health of Canadians."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elaine