As the prescription drug abuse epidemic has plagued every region of the United States, the same trend seems to be affecting Canada as well. The country has been suffering an ongoing problem involving the widespread abuse of prescription drugs. It is currently home to the second largest number of prescription painkiller users per capita, according to the International Narcotics Control Board. To combat this problem, the Canadian federal government will invest $13 million over the next five years to increase pharmacy inspections in the hopes of curbing the illegal sales of these popular, yet deadly, drugs.
Rona Ambrose, the Federal Health Minister announced this decision during a summit on prescription drug abuse in Edmonton, the capital of the Canadian province Alberta, in May. Doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement, national representatives and addiction specialists were in attendance. This summit’s focal points were the three steps of Canada’s National Anti-Drug Strategy: treatment, prevention and enforcement.
The $13 million funding will enable teams of 19 inspectors and five compliance analysts to inspect approximately 1,000 pharmacies over a four year span and 180 inspections annually on a continual basis. “These inspections are going to ensure that controlled substances are properly secured and stored, that record keeping is accurate and up-to-date and that any losses or thefts of prescription drugs from pharmacies are reported in a timely fashion,” said Ambrose. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), there have already been 12 pharmacy robberies in Edmonton in 2015. Corporal Kim Mueller with the Stony Plain/Spruce Grove RCMP commented, “We have seen a steady increase in crimes involving such abuse over the past few years.” Many of these cases in which pharmacies are robbed are motivated solely by the need to feed a prescription drug addiction.
In 2014, Alberta authorities recorded 120 deaths associated with the abuse of fentanyl, a highly potent opioid medication used for treating patients with pain following surgeries. In 2015, there have already been 50 deaths in Alberta resulting from fentanyl abuse. Two surveys conducted in 2008 found that approximately 20 percent of Alberta students reported having illegally used prescription drugs. Additionally, it has been reported that 90 percent of drug users from inner cities have used at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days.
Statistics have also shown that incidents concerning prescription drug abuse in First Nations communities have recently increased. These American Indian communities in Canada face the same challenges as those on American Indian reservations in the United States. Corporal Mueller commented, “Unfortunately our First Nation communities face major challenges, such as high unemployment rates, poor housing conditions, low levels of education and inadequate support services. All of these factors contribute to the increased likelihood of substance abuse. This in turn leads to an increase in crimes against persons and property and increased police involvement.”
The Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Survey in 2012 found that an estimated 410,000 Canadians reported having used prescription drugs. The Canadian government has launched a national marketing campaign to increase awareness and educate First Nations communities on harmful effects of prescription drug abuse and proper ways to talk to their children about the issue.
“Our Government has made it a priority to fight prescription drug abuse, and we are investing heavily in a range of initiatives to address this issue. Our team of inspectors will be working in cooperation with pharmacies across the country to track, report and monitor the movement of prescription drugs which will ultimately help ensure they are being used for the right reasons by the right patients,” Ambrose stated.
The prescription drug epidemic is ever-present in North America and has lead to a large increase in drug related deaths. This calls for action and requires a higher demand for addiction treatment services. Sovereign Health Group offers various inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for patients who are struggling with drug addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with drug addiction and is in need of addiction treatment, please do not hesitate to call or talk to a member of our team online. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and one of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer