Pubdate: Sat, 16 Sep 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Page: A18


Up to now, Montreal has largely been spared the worst of the fentanyl
crisis that has taken such a horrible toll in Vancouver and certain
other parts of Western Canada. But the city's luck is starting to run
out. The extremely powerful synthetic opioid is increasingly being
found in street drugs in this city. As its presence increases, the
result will be sadly predictable: more fatal overdoses by users, many
of them unaware of its presence or of its power.

So it is good to see that public authorities and community workers are
treating this deadly threat with the seriousness that it deserves.

On Tuesday, Montreal officials raised the alarm and called upon the
province to come up with a plan.

A day later, Health Minister Gaetan Barrette and Public Health
Minister Lucie Charlebois announced that naloxone, a life-saving drug
that counters opioid overdoses, will be made widely available;
pharmacies will provide free kits to the public, and police and
firefighters (not only ambulance crews) will carry them. This is a
quick, common sense move for which the provincial government deserves

Barrette also pointed out that the recent opening of safe-injection
sites is another factor that stands to help reduce the toll in
Montreal. However Vancouver also has several such sites; while they
are helpful, no one is suggesting they are a panacea.

A more comprehensive plan is promised by the end of the

Meanwhile, police are making fentanyl a top priority, according to a
report Friday in La Presse. Keeping the substance off the street, and
out of the hands of users, is obviously a key factor in overdose prevention.

Community organizations are also doing what they can. Pamphlets are
being distributed to raise awareness. There have also been calls for
the hours of supervised-injection sites to be lengthened, for naloxone
to be distributed by those who work with addicts (and not just by
pharmacies), and for the methadone program to be expanded. Those are
all sound ideas.

While the immediate situation requires immediate responses, it's also
time for Canadians to do some deeper thinking. Opioid addiction, some
of which is rooted in the overprescription of certain painkillers, is
undoubtedly dangerous and harmful; but would it not be wiser to deal
with it as a medical and social problem, rather than a criminal one?
How many break-and-enters, how much prostitution, is the work of
desperate addicts? How many die after consuming tainted street drugs?
How many addicts fill our jails?

Addiction is a complicated problem, but clearly, there are better ways
to handle it than we do now.
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