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New Study Finds Prescription Drug Abuse Sharply on the Rise in Canada

A new study published in the April 2009 issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health finds that abuse of prescription opiate painkillers is on a sharp rise across the country. The study, as reported by CBC News on April 22, 2009, states that the number of abusers of such painkillers as Tylenol 3 and OxyContin ranges anywhere from 312,000 and 914,000 Canadians—or a staggering 1% - 3% of the Canadian population.

Co-author Prof. Benedikt Fischer of Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Services in British Columbia voiced concerns to the CBC that we could soon be seeing an uptick in the number of deaths associated with the drug abuse—as many as 300 - 800 deaths per year, or somewhere between 30% - 40% of all overdose deaths in Canada.

Abuse and addiction associated with prescription opiates is a growing global issue, coming under much international scrutiny. In a 2007 report, for example, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations affiliated organization, warned that prescription drug abuse worldwide was expected to exceed that of illicit street drugs.

In Canada, a 2005 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that such prescription opiates as morphine, OxyContin, and Percodan had replaced heroin as the drug of choice by the vast majority of street drug users in all major Canadian cities—with the exception of Vancouver and Montreal, where heroin remained popular.

This latest study suggests the following six preventative strategies:

  • Expanding prescription drug monitoring programs.
  • Reducing improper prescribing practices.
  • Educating physicians, pharmacists and the public.
  • Eliminating internet drug pharmacies.
  • Providing warning labels on all controlled substance prescriptions.
  • Developing non-opioid treatments for chronic pain.

Sobriety Home treatment center addresses prescription drug abuse, along with other substance abuse and addiction problems, as recounted by Tom, aged 19, a Sobriety Home success story:

“I had used drugs since the age of 13. When I arrived at the Center I had just overdosed on Oxycontin. I nearly died in the hospital and spent three days in intensive care and another four days in a unit. I arrived straight from the hospital. During this time even though I did not want to be there the staff made me feel comfortable and really tried hard to get through to me. I had planned to stay a maximum of one month but felt my attitude begin to improve and I had hope. I think this had a great deal to do with the staff since I had a real bad attitude and was negative 90% of the time. They never gave up trying to get through to me and they did because I stayed another month. I started to feel better and better. The staff helped me come up with an exit plan. We found a sober house I could go to after treatment. The staff were like a family and all worked together. You could always talk to them.”

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