Pubdate: Tue, 14 Feb 2017
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Peterborough Examiner
Author: Rosana Salvaterra
Page: A4


Last May, Ontario's minister of health, Dr. Eric Hoskins, announced
that Ontario would ensure pharmacies dispense Naloxone kits to anyone
at risk of an opioid overdose. At last count, seven pharmacies in
Peterborough are participating in this attempt to prevent these
tragedies from occurring in our communities. People using opioids,
whether prescribed or obtained illicitly, or their families and
friends, can now get a free rescue drug, Naloxone, to be used in the
event of a witnessed overdose. These access points are in addition to
the kits that have been available through public health, PARN and Fourcast.

But the rescue medication Naloxone, although critical ( just like
Epipens are critical to treat anaphylaxis) is not the solution to this
opioid crisis that has emerged over the past two decades in Canada. So
much more is needed. Canada has one of the highest opioid prescribing
rates in the world: four to five times higher than countries like
Germany or the UK. Peterborough has the honour of having the sixth
highest rate of prescribed opioids in Ontario, where, in 2014-15
almost 2 million Ontarians received a prescription for a narcotic.
Almost half of those addicted to opioids report that their
introduction to the drug came by way of a prescription for pain for
legitimate conditions like broken bones, arthritis or surgery.
Although well-intentioned, the proliferation of opioid prescribing for
non-malignant and chronic pain that occurred in the 1990s, has had
devastating consequences. So much so that now opioid deaths in Ontario
hover at about 700 per year, and rival motor ve! hicle collision as a
leading cause of accidental death in young adults. Now, one in eight
deaths of young adults aged 25-34 are due to opioids.

Purdue Pharma introduced Oxycontin in 1996 and promoted it with what
has been called the most aggressive marketing campaign ever undertaken
for an opioid. Fast forward to 2012, the year that Ontario delisted
Oxycontin and replaced it with a more tamper-proof version that can
only be prescribed in special cases.

Federal actions that led to the enhanced availability of Naloxone,
reduced the availability of lethal street drugs and removed barriers
to the establishment of safe drug consumption sites are all helping to
address the crisis. The commitment of Ontario to a comprehensive
strategy that includes safe prescribing, better pain and addiction
services, as well as enhanced harm reduction like free Naloxone kits
for people at risk of overdoses is critical. Here in Peterborough, our
medical and pharmacy providers are committed to taking action as well.
We introduced a voluntary Fentanyl patch return program long before it
was mandated by law. Our police have been champions for a local drug
strategy that includes all four pillars of prevention, treatment, harm
reduction and enforcement. Launching this month, our hospital will be
one of the first to offer Naloxone kits in the Emergency Department to
patients at risk of an opioid overdose and their friends and family.
And now it will be! up to all of us to reduce the stigma and shame
associated with addictions.

It is easy to blame the person with an addiction - but blame will not
help them get the help they need and muster the strength to turn their
lives around. If one wishes to point fingers, one would need more than
the 10 fingers of both hands as the roots of this problem are multiple
and deep. Let's continue to make Peterborough proud with our
open-mindedness, our compassion and our tenacity to work together to
come up with local solutions.

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra is the medical office of health at Peterborough 
Public Health. Her column appears monthly.
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