London’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says he thinks a new provincial strategy to fight opioid abuse will curb the availability of drugs in the city.
On Wednesday, the province introduced a number of new methods to prevent addiction and abuse across Ontario.
The strategy will make Naloxone, an overdose antidote, free of charge to treat those who overdose. First responders will be given a nasal spray of the drug and at-risk inmates released from provincial jails will be given Naloxone kits.
Meanwhile, Suboxone will be used as an alternative to methadone to treat opioid addiction.
Dr. Chris Mackie said that the use of both Naloxone and Suboxone will be beneficial to stem the growing opioid epidemic.
“A shot of Naloxone or a nasal spray of Naloxone can start your breathing again, can bring you back to life,” he said. “(Suboxone) has the agonist and antagonist, in other words the opioid and the antidote in the same drug, and has been really effective for some people that haven’t been able to make methadone treatment work.”
British Columbia, which is at the centre of the opioid crisis, added Naloxone to its drug formulary last year to combat fatal overdoses.
Mackie added that it wasn’t clear from Wednesday’s announcement if London’s methadone clinics would be affected.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins unveiled the strategy, which also included doing a better job of collecting data on overdoses and deaths from opioids.
“Ontario is far ahead of the rest of the country in terms of the per capita number of prescriptions for opioids, for example, and there’s not any reasonable explanation for that other than we need to do a better job and ensuring that prescriptions, when prescribed, are done for appropriate reasons.”
According to Hoskins, about 50,000 addicts are currently receiving methadone treatment in Ontario. Meanwhile, there were 700 opioid related deaths in 2014, a 266 per cent increase from 2002.
Mackie said that London has seen an influx in opioids, specifically fentanyl, over the past few years since OxyContin was discontinued.
In Mackie’s opinion, it may be time Canada considers legalizing opioids.
“What you need to do is address illegal demand. One way to do that is through legalization, ensuring that distribution is controlled the same way it is for alcohol and tobacco and other things,” he said. “But that, at least in Canada, is probably a long way off. Other countries have had significant success addressing their opioid epidemics using that approach, but I don’t know if our country is ready for that.”
As of October 1, patients being prescribed fentanyl are required to return their patches to the pharmacy before getting new ones.
The new strategy will also invest $17-million a year to create or enhance 17 chronic pain clinics across Ontario.