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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

We need to talk about Canada’s opioid crisis

We need to do better.

It shouldn’t sit well with anyone that 20 people in Canada die every day from opioid use. And if you dive down into the stats, it’s terrifying to learn that 87 per cent of those deaths are fentanyl related. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.

Why aren’t we talking about this more?

We just burned through a $610 million federal election with the parties debating climate change, affordable housing, jobs, and the COVID-19 pandemic. There was barely a mention of Canada’s skyrocketing opioid crisis.

Climate change is important, so is the economy, as are vaccinations to fight the spread of COVID-19. But are you aware that opioid-related deaths in Canada have increased a staggering 88 per cent since the onset of the pandemic? Close to 7,000 people in Canada have died from apparent opioid toxicity between April 2020 and March 2021. In total, 22,828 Canadians have died from opioids since 2016.

These are not just stats. They are human beings. They are sons and daughters. They are mothers and fathers. Friends, lovers. They were people who had dreams. People who had plans.

And we need to do better for them.

We need to do better for Jessamy Hogan Lucuik, the 27-year-old Wakefielder who died last year of an accidental fentanyl overdose. Her death has left a trail of devastation throughout the Hills.

We need to do better for Malcolm Burbank, the young 20-year-old from Edelweiss who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2019.

We need to do better for the countless others who share the vicious illness of opioid addiction.

So many of us will read the horror stories only to think, “this could never happen to me.” That’s what we all think, right?

But it can, and it does. It happened to Carrie Hogan; it happened to Darcy Burbank — parents who tried their best to understand and accept their childrens’ illnesses and were forced to endure the unbearable task of burying a child. We need to do better for them.

If we all want a better shot at beating this epidemic, we need to talk about it. We need to tear down the stigma around addiction and recognize it for what it is: an illness. Opioid use should be a national discussion. We should talk about it at our dinner tables. We should discuss it with our kids and with our peers. We should discuss it.

It’s extremely disheartening to learn that the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma and the makers of OxyContin, have secured sweeping immunity from opioid lawsuits in the U.S. In a bankruptcy settlement case earlier this month, a U.S. federal judge granted the family “global peace” from any liability for the opioid epidemic. They were ordered to pay $4.3 billion and forfeit ownership of their company.

Where is the justice?

Four billion dollars and change won’t bring back the nearly 50,000 Americans who died from opioids in 2019 alone. It won’t bring back the nearly 23,000 Canadians who have died since 2016. And it won’t bring back Jessamy or Malcolm.

We need to do better.

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