In the first six months of 2016, 150 people died from overdoses due to opioid use of drugs like fentanyl and W-18 and the leader of the Alberta liberals wants the government to do more.
“The first step has to take is advance the priority that this takes,” explains Dr. David Swann, leader of the Alberta Liberals. “Any other epidemic of disease causing this kind of death rate would have a much more substantial response from government.”
Swann says naloxone, which is being distributed around the province, has saved a lot of lives but more needs to be done.
“It is like giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to somebody who has had high blood-pressure all their life or hasn’t been living a healthy lifestyle,” explains Swann. “Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may keep them alive for another few weeks or months but the real problem is changing the lifestyle.”
He says there is almost an overdose death a day in Alberta due to opioids.
“A stronger, more organized commitment, safe injection sites or observed pill taking requires staffing to watch people as they take their substitute therapy and don’t go out and sell it,” explains Swann.
Swann calls the situation an epidemic and thinks more education for Albertans and the doctors writing prescriptions are needed, safe-use sites, counselling and treatment would help.
Swann says part of the problem is the ease of access of these types of drugs.
“I think the College of Physicians and Surgeons needs to step up its program of education physicians about using and over-using this as a prescription drug for chronic pain,” explains Swann. “It is one thing to use it for cancer pain and end of life severe pain but it is quite another for people to use it with chronic pain.”
He adds, the province needs to treat addiction as an illness, not a crime or a fault of the user. (twd)