Pubdate: Mon, 08 Feb 2016
Source: Varsity, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2016 The Varsity
Author: Andreea Musulan


Students advocate for drug reform in Canada

 From April 19-20, the United Nations will be holding a General
Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to discuss global drug policy for
the first time since 1998. U of T students from the Canadian chapter
of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) hope to be in attendance.

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP)

The Canadian chapter of the CSSDP focuses on harm reduction and a
scientific approach to drug policy, say Daniel Grieg, a leader within
the organization, and Kyle Lumsden, a dedicated member.

In an email exchange with The Varsity, Greig emphasized that
restrictions of scientific inquiry into psychedelics hinder medicinal

"Drugs are inappropriately classified in present policy. For example,
psychedelics are currently being explored=C2=85 for their therapeutic
properties and are also contributing to research in how we think about
consciousness and the brain. If it does turn out that psychedelics are
useful and safe medicines, then we will be effectively withholding
treatment from people suffering from mental illness," he said.

Greig emphasized the importance of lifting barriers to research.
"Ultimately, we need to not only minimize the negative impacts of drug
policy, we also need to maximize the possible benefits. Harms are
things such as the disproportionate criminalization of the poor and
people of colour, as well as the unnecessary deaths caused by lack of
available knowledge. The benefits are such things as useful research
tools, the development of more effective mental health treatments and
tax revenue."

Lumsden outlined the focus of his interest in drug policy reform: "The
widespread harm of alcohol and violence associated with black markets
for illegal drugs pose the greatest threat to society and can be
improved with evidence based public policy. Multiple studies show that
when police have a successful takedown of a drug network, there is a
spike in violence afterwards due to a vacuum of power; other criminal
groups compete for their share of the market indefinitely."

Nazlee Maghsoudi is the strategic advisor for the CSSDP, the knowledge
translation manager for the International Centre for Science in Drug
Policy (ICSDP), and a U of T graduate. She said that the reality is
that "prohibition has endangered young people" despite the war on
drugs rhetoric, which claims to be aimed at "keeping children safe."

Maghsoudi believes that UNGASS is "drug policy's moment in the sun, in
terms of approach." According to Maghsoudi, the UN's drug policy
approach has grown outside of the UN because "the global drug policy
regime is divorced from human rights" even though non-progressive
countries execute their inhabitants for possession or

She also believes that there are many barriers to reaching the
consensus needed for the construction of an international framework
through the UN.

Canada's opioid problem

According to an article in the Globe and Mail article, "Canada is the
world's second-largest per capita consumer
of opioids and the fallout is being felt across the
country. The article indicates that between 2009 to 2014, at least 655
Canadians died as a result of fentanyl, apowerful opioid that is
available by prescription and is also manufactured in clandestine labs
and sold on the street."

Tara Gomes, a scientist working for the Ontario Drug Policy Research
Network (ODPRN) describes pain as "difficult to manage" and that there
"isn't a lot of training for it in medical school."

It's not that opioids should not be used, but once someone shows
addictive tendencies doctors should be able to refer patients to a
case-dependent addiction treatment. Tara Gomes emphasized "there is a
place for these drugs in clinical practice," Gomes said.


The Triplicate Prescription Program (TPP) and Prescription Review
Program (PRP) were created in part to address the opioid prescription
problem facing Canada.

Wende Wood, a pharmacist and a graduate from the Ontario Institute for
Studies in Education, recently moved to Alberta, where the TPP is
currently in effect. According to the College of Physicians and
Surgeons' website, "TPP collects prescribing and dispensing data for
listed drugs. When the data meet certain criteria, physicians and
others involved in the care of the patient are alerted, provided with
information and directed to resources to support them in providing
safe care."

Saskatchewan has a PRP that performs a similar function.

Wood said that these prescription monitoring programs have not caught
on because providing three copies of the same prescription is tedious
for doctors to fill out.

Marijuana and Toronto's dispensaries

Under the current framework, marijuana is legal as a prescribed
medication. To obtain this prescription, one must register for a mail
order from a licensed producer, or obtain a doctor's prescription for
a health-related issue, which must be taken to a local dispensary.

The dispensaries are not authorized by Health Canada.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt