REALity  Volume XXXVI  Issue No. 9 September 2017

Canada’s approach to dealing with the opioid crisis is to establish more drug injection sites, pretending that they will reduce these deaths. Drug injection sites only provide a place for drug addicts to inject their illegal drugs.  It has not been explained how these sites are supposed to curb drug overdose deaths since the sites cause the addicts to inject even more poison into their bodies, resulting in their inevitable and frequently terrifying deaths.  Only 5% of drug addicts actually use these sites in any case.  Most inject elsewhere as well, frequently several times a day, in alleys, behind buildings, in parks, etc.  Even Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, a medical doctor, is confused by her own policy since she admits that she doesn’t think the opioid crisis will stop any time soon, despite her scrambling to establish more injection sites across the country.

The U.S. is handling the opioid crisis more intelligently by taking no nonsense steps to stop the opioid deaths. U.S. states, counties and local prosecutors have commenced a wave of litigation against the pharmaceutical companies which manufacture the opioids that have caused the worst drug addiction crisis in history.  The goal of this litigation is to turn Big Pharma into what was designated as Big Tobacco in previous years.

That is, tobacco manufacturers were previously accused of deceiving the public about the addiction risk of cigarettes. The tobacco giants agreed in 1998, to pay more than $200 billion (US) to the government toward the costs of providing health care for the resulting damage.

This same procedure is now being applied to the manufacturers of opioids. For example, the attorneys general of Ohio, Missouri, Mississippi and Oklahoma, plus counties in such states as California and New York are suing the drug companies for causing harm to the public.  More lawsuits are probably coming.  In all, twenty states have commenced legal action against the drug manufacturers.

The U.S. authorities are arguing that the opioid epidemic was produced by a fraudulent scheme to mislead doctors and the public about the need for and the hidden addictive nature of opioid drugs. The authorities also argue that the pharmaceutical companies put millions of dollars into advertising and sales in order to increase the consumption of opioids, while also encouraging legislation that has made opioids even more readily available to the public.

One of the primary targets of these lawsuits has already admitted its fraudulent behaviour. Purdue Corporation, which manufactures OxyContin, pleaded guilty to criminal felony in 2007, agreeing to a $600-million settlement in the US, admitting that it had inaccurately promoted the product – between 1995 and 2001 – as being less addictive than other opioids, which was not true.  Purdue has further offered $200 million to settle a class action lawsuit against it in Ontario.  Other drug companies charged are the manufacturers of Percocet, Opana, and the generic drug Oxycodone.  Opana is manufactured by the Dublin Ireland company ENO and it expects to pay $20 million in damages as its opioid has become a favourite of addicts who no longer crush and snort the pill, but now inject it, leading to a serious outbreak of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Non Prescription Opioids

There is another problem with opioids in that nearly 70% of opioid deaths do not come from prescription abuse, but rather, come from illegal opioids such as heroin, illegal fentanyl and a hundred other cheap street drugs made in kitchen pharmacies. They contain questionable components and uncontrolled strengths triggering unintended overdosing by addicts.

As a result, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recently announced the appointment of 12 prosecutors to investigate health care fraud and opioid scams that are fuelling the drug overdose epidemic in the US. If only Canadian authorities had such common sense.

In B.C., it was found that the drugs used in 60% of overdose deaths and 86% of drugs brought into Vancouver’s drug injection site were contaminated with fentanyl. Drug traffickers in Vancouver can easily order this highly potent, low-cost drug online, mainly from China.  It is then cut into small portions to sell on the streets.  The contaminated drug is then purchased by addicts, who bring this illicit drug for use in supervised injection sites or inject it elsewhere.

What we should be doing is working towards prevention of drug use. Addiction is preventable if we apply strong law enforcement, as well as education to tell the public the direct message that drugs are deadly.  Youth have to understand that the use, not only of opioids, but also alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, is a grave risk to their lives.  90% of addiction starts with the use of these latter substances.

Instead of agreeing to stop overdose deaths by law enforcement and education in Canada, a coalition of drug users, harm reduction workers and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, among others, are calling on the government to legalize all hard drugs and give access to prescription heroin.  They claim drug prohibition is exacerbating the drug crisis.  They argue that addicts will stop using dangerous street drugs and committing crimes if only they have a safer alternative.

These activists have been encouraged by statements made by Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health, and NDP Toronto City Councillor, Joe Miheve, Chair of the Board of Health, who support the legalization of drugs on the basis that it curtails deaths by making it easily accessible. Just how this is supposed to happen has not been explained.

One hopes the federal government does not cave in to such bizarre claims. It will only lead to increased deaths by drug overdose.  The opioid problem costs the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in providing emergency health care to addicts, and in picking up the pieces of destroyed lives.  It is also causing a depleted work force among prime-age workers.  In the US at least 25% of work applicants fail the drug tests or are deterred from even applying for jobs.  This is resulting in thousands of unfilled jobs.

The only beneficiaries of the drug epidemic are the drug industry both legal and illegal, and also those workers serving addicts as care councillors providing them with social services.