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07 Jun 2017

Canadian opioid overdose data provide only a partial picture of death toll

by Kelly Grant and Karen Howlett


Nearly seven people a day died of opioid-related overdoses in Canada last year, according to the first official attempt to measure the toll that the powerful drugs, including illicit fentanyl, have taken from coast to coast.

In a slim report released on Tuesday, a national advisory committee on the opioid epidemic said there were at least 2,458 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada in 2016, representing an average of almost seven a day or 8.8 fatalities for every 100,000 people in the country.

However, the national snapshot is far from complete: The committee declined to release preliminary figures by province, the total does not include Quebec, and the data from Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador are from 2015, making them more than a year out of date.

31 May 2017

Naloxone kits now in rural eastern Ontario English schools

Ottawa's English school boards working on anti-opioid overdose plans of their own

By Andrew Foote

Around 150 English schools just outside the City of Ottawa now have naloxone kits in their offices and staff trained to use them, which board officials say is a proactive move to prevent a potential fentanyl crisis in their communities.

On Tuesday, more than 100 staff members from all 50 schools in the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario gathered in Cornwall, Ont., and Kemptville, Ont., for 30-minute training sessions on how to use naloxone nasal spray.

Naloxone is an antidote that can reverse the harmful effects of an opioid overdose and save someone's life. 

"It's literally putting the medication in someone's nose and pulling a plunger, then moving them into a recovery position," said William Gartland, the board's director of education, who took the training on Tuesday.

11 May 2017

Witnesses to drug overdoses can now call 911 without fearing criminal charges

May 09, 2017 by Samantha Beattie Waterloo Chronicle


It just got a little easier to save the lives of people who are overdosing on drugs.

Under the Good Samaritan Overdose Act, passed last week in the House of Commons, those who witness an overdose and call 911 get immunity from simple drug possession charges.

Also, a person on probation or parole, with a court order not to be around narcotics, will not face breach charges when reporting an overdose.

The Good Samaritan law, private members Bill C-224, is part of the federal government’s Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy announced in December. The creation of the law stems from Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council research done in 2012 that found a major barrier to witnesses calling for help in the event of an overdose was fear of criminal repercussions, said Michael Parkinson, WRCPC’s community engagement coordinator.

04 May 2017

Good Samaritan Drug overdose bill to become law

Bill protects people who call to report overdoses from being prosecuted for drug possession.

By: Ryan Tumilty Metro

A law to protect people from facing drug charges if they call to report an in-progress overdose is set to become law.

After passing the Senate with a few amendments, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, cleared its final legislative hurdle Wednesday night in the House of Commons.

The law makes clear that police will not pursue minor charges like drug possession against anyone who calls to report that someone is having an overdose.

Ron McKinnon, the MP for Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, who drafted the private member’s bill, said he’s confident the law will have an impact, especially as the opioid crisis leads to more deaths.

27 Mar 2017

Liberals to announce marijuana will be legal by July 1, 2018

Provinces will have right to decide how marijuana is distributed and sold, CBC News has learned

By David Cochrane, CBC News


The Liberal government will announce legislation next month that will legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018.

CBC News has learned that the legislation will be announced during the week of April 10 and will broadly follow the recommendation of a federally appointed task force that was chaired by former liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan.

Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who has been stickhandling the marijuana file for the government, briefed the Liberal caucus on the roll-out plan and the legislation during caucus meetings this weekend.

27 Feb 2017

Deal reduces price of life-saving hepatitis C drugs for Canadians

 Kelly Grant - The Globe and Mail 

Tens of thousands of Canadian patients with mild versions of chronic hepatitis C could soon receive public funding for medications that cure the infection now that the provinces have sealed a deal with three pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of the ultra-expensive drugs.

The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), which negotiates prices on behalf of the provincial and territorial public drug programs, announced on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the makers of six breakthrough hepatitis C medications, including the best-known drugs in the class, Harvoni and Sovaldi.

Shortly after the pCPA confirmed the deal, the British Columbia government declared that its PharmaCare program would begin covering the drugs for patients with chronic hepatitis C, regardless of the type or severity, beginning in 2018.

06 Feb 2017

Prescription heroin program ready to rapidly expand

The Crosstown Clinic on Hastings Street offers free doses of heroin and hydromorphone

By Rafferty Baker, CBC News

Mark Schnell walks into the injection room at Providence Health Care's Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

With the help of a cane, he approaches a booth where he's given one of his three daily doses of injectable hydromorphone, an opioid used as a replacement for drugs like heroin.

The 49-year-old makes his way over to a steel counter in front of a mirror, where a nurse helps him wrap a piece of elastic around his upper arm. He struggles to find a vein in his left hand, then suddenly cries out in pain. Another nurse jumps in to help him.

"I hit a nerve. It was an electrical shock through my whole body," he later said. "I've never experienced anything like that." 

Schnell tries a vein in his other hand, then decides to inject the drug into his right shoulder

For nearly three decades, Schnell has used hard drugs. For most of that time he was into crack cocaine and crystal meth, but by the time he got into the program at Crosstown about four years ago, he was also dependent on heroin.

"Being in this program, the first thing I did ... I quit cocaine after 28 years," he said.

04 Feb 2017

What are some managed alcohol and other harm reduction initiatives in Canada?

  Emma Woolley - Canadian Observatory on Homelessness/Homeless Hub: York University


This question came from Ari F. via our latest website survey.

Harm reduction is quickly becoming more and more accepted in policy and practice in Canada. As it is an effective public health and engagement initiative with plenty of evidence behind most practices (Ball, 2007; Hunt et al., 2003; Wodak & McLeod, 2008), this isn’t surprising. Research has shown that as long as harm reduction interventions are effectively implemented and exist as part of a system of services, they are successful in their intended goals. Practices include distribution programs (of clean supplies), overdose prevention and education, social service referrals, advocacy and social action. Harm reduction values and principles speak to agency and respect, and are an important part of advocating for the rights of people who use drugs. Given the fact that people who use drugs also tend to experience social isolation and stigma, this element of harm reduction is very important.

31 Jan 2017

Illicit drug users and doctors who treat them push to end ‘stigmatizing’ language

 CAMILLE BAINS - The Canadian Press

Calling someone a junkie was once the norm, but many people who use illicit drugs and those who treat them say the word addict is just as stigmatizing.

At the Crosstown Clinic, which provides pharmaceutical heroin treatment for people hooked on the opioid, someone has crossed out “addicts” on a notice posted by a group called the Addicts Union and substituted “patients.”

Dr. Scott MacDonald, lead physician at Crosstown, said the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders no longer lists the term addict.

16 Jan 2017

How medical marijuana could help curb the opioid crisis

As the number of overdoses from fentanyl continues to rise across the country, the opioid crisis has emerged as one of Canada's most serious public health issues — and some researchers believe medical marijuana could help combat the problem.

People working in the field agree that solutions are needed now. Last year, the city of Vancouver alone reported more than 750 opioid-related deaths. And the crisis continues to spread. This week, officials in Toronto hosted a meeting to prepare for a potential epidemic of overdoses from fentanyl.

[Medical marijuana]

Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance argues medical marijuana could help curb the opioid crisis, both as an alternative source of pain treatment and as a tool for addicts who are trying to wean themselves off prescription pills. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

While it's not known precisely how many Canadians are addicted to opioids, prescriptions for the drugs have skyrocketed in recent years — up roughly 20% between 2010 and 2014. According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian doctors wrote 53 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in 2015.

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