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Fentanyl is not a new drug or a recently used drug in the medical field, and it had been around since 1959 when it was developed; and in Canada, the substance is considered a Schedule I drug as it is listed in Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. By the mid-1990s, fentanyl had become used for pain management as a patch that was given to patients for slow release to treat pain over 48 to 72 hours. By 2009, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States approved a fentanyl drug for cancer pain management for people who were tolerant of every other type of opioid, and by 2012, fentanyl was becoming problematic in Canada illegally and through prescriptions. Fentanyl can be used safely under the supervision of a medical professional, and unfortunately, many Canadians who use opioids for medical reasons, become tolerant to these drugs and are then often prescribed fentanyl for continuing pain management. Legally prescribed prescription opioids can be taken safely, and when taken as directed the likely hood for dependency and addiction is still there, but can be avoided. However, there has been a continuing rise with opioid abuse within Canada, and the drug fentanyl has been at the forefront of these problems. The government of Canada reported in 2016 that there more than 2800 suspected opioid-related deaths took place within the county, and unfortunately, much of the data that has been collected from 2017 indicates the number is over 3000 or more.

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The vast majority of opioid-related deaths in the country can be linked to fentanyl, in fact; British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta are at the forefront for fentanyl-related deaths in Canada. British Columbia declared a public health emergency in April of 2016, and currently, in 2018 the effect of this crisis is being felt across the province within every community and impacting every walk of life. Alberta and Ontario are witnessing much of the same problem with similar numbers for overdose deaths each year. For example, every corner of Alberta has been hit with young people and old dying from using illegally purchased fentanyl or drugs that have been laces with a concentrated amount of fentanyl. All of this has led provincial and municipal governments in the country to look at different options to help and prevent people from dying. Unfortunately, much of the fentanyl that is found in North America is being made in laboratories in Asia; primarily China, and are trafficked into Mexico onto the United States or Canada, or directly trafficked into Canada.


Many experts in the field of addiction treatment and experts in the medical field feel that the primary contributing factor for the increased use of opioids in Canada is the growth of prescriptions being given and opioids being used for medical treatment. By the mid-2000s, the rates of prescription opioid dispensing, which includes fentanyl, and high doses of other opioids, began to rise in Canada. Unfortunately, it is no secret that opioid pain medications are being overprescribed within Canada, and next to the United States, Canada is the second-largest consumer for prescription opioids. Fentanyl is a pain medication that is meant to be used on patients who have a tolerance for every other opioid that is legally prescribed. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is a regularly used pharmaceutical to treat pain. However, the illegal fentanyl that is being found and smuggled into Canada is a purer form of the drug and is being pressed into other illegal drugs, which has contributed to the increased rise in accidental overdose deaths throughout Canada. The average opioid drug user who dies from an overdose is unaware that there was a toxic dose of fentanyl in the drugs they were using. The contributing factor to the fentanyl crisis in Canada is a combination of over-prescription and illegal fentanyl being smuggled into the country that is made in labs in other parts of the world.


Each provincial and territorial government have been actively responding, despite the growing need for more help, treatment, and preventative measures. Most provincial and municipal governments in Canada have been addressing the prescribing practices, but all provinces and territories have been increasing access to opioid agonist treatment options. Naloxone is a drug that can be used to save someone from an opioid overdose and reverse the effects, and naloxone kits are becoming more available, and are always carried with first responders. Many other actions are taking place on the federal level of government with more funding, harm reduction programs, and working with other governments such as the United States and China to disrupt the export of illegally produces fentanyl.


An increased presence with harm reduction, prevention, and law enforcement has been helping many Canadians avoid becoming dependent or addicted to opioids, or dying from using fentanyl. However, drug detox and drug rehabilitation is the only solution to save someone who is already abusing these types of drugs. All across Canada, there are numerous options available for Canadians, both privately operated and those that receive funding federally, provincially, and through local municipal governments. A fentanyl addiction or an addiction to opioids must start with a medical detox or a supervised withdrawal period. Fentanyl will affect the central nervous system while also creating excess amounts of dopamine, giving the user the euphoria and feeling of numbness. Unfortunately, the body and mind develop a tolerance and will require increased doses to maintain this tolerance. The average opioid user cannot stop using these drugs cold turkey because of the significant withdrawal pains associated. Medical detox programs in Canada will help an addict go through these withdrawals safely, and under the proper supervision. Residential drug treatment is an effective avenue, and all across Canada, the inpatient rehab programs available will provide varying treatment methodologies to help addicts and ensure individual needs are met. Drug rehabilitation treats the reasons why and addresses the mental and physical needs of the addict to ensure an addiction will not happen again.

Works cited – September 30, 2018 – “Government of Canada Actions on Opioids: 2016 and 2017

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