Action to tackle poverty is a good first step in reducing the opioid crisis, says Sean MacNutt, community worker in Toronto and member of the organization Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance.
For her part, Dr. Gillian Kolla, researcher at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (Canadian Institute for Research on Substance Use, free translation) at the University of Victoria, says people with addictions need to be better supported.
In addition, the two experts agree that the decriminalization of drugs represents a possible solution.
Only two of the five major federal parties included decriminalization in their respective election platforms.
Poverty, a factor
Poverty and the opioid crisis are inextricably linked, MacNutt says.
We must resolve the issue of poverty in Canada, since it is at the root of the opioid crisis, he said.
Sean MacNutt is a community worker in Toronto and a member of the Toronto Harm Reducation Alliance.
According to him, the federal parties must really respond to the issues of poverty, especially with regard to the housing crisis.
In Toronto, for example, if we were able to house all the homeless people who live with addictions, we would be able to greatly reduce the misery in their lives.
Everything in life is more difficult when you don’t have a home.
For her part, Dr. Kolla says opioid users must have more choices in order to treat their addictions.
There needs to be more options for people with drug addiction problems.
Safe opioid supply programs, which allow drug users to have prescriptions for pharmaceutical drugs, add to the investments needed, she said.
Prescription programs for opiates make it possible to know the doses of drugs and are therefore safer, she says.
The two speakers agree on this point: drugs must be decriminalized.
Federal parties should consider the decriminalization of drugs in Canada and build a system that regulates these substances, according to MacNutt.
We need to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs. This is a measure that can then reduce the stigma of drug use in the general population., adds Dr. Kolla.
A political choice
Dr. Kolla also emphasizes that the pandemic has proven that governments can quickly mobilize for a public health crisis.
We have seen that it is possible for governments to act and invest quickly to address a public health problem, she explains.
People who work with people who use drugs feel that levels of government are not taking the opioid crisis and overdose seriously.
Drug use is still seen as a moral problem and the methods of intervention really reflect this perception. These are responses still focused on police intervention and the criminal justice system, says Dr. Kolla.
Dr. Gillian Kolla is a researcher at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria.
The response of the federal parties
The New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party have included decriminalization of drugs and investments for safe supply programs in their election platforms.
The Liberal Party, for its part, does not include these initiatives. Outgoing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests his government would work with communities that want to explore such options. The party’s platform also cites an investment of more than $ 600 million since 2015 to respond to the opioid crisis.
The Conservative Party favors an approach focused on addiction treatment, with an investment of $ 325 million over 3 years to create 1,000 residential treatment spaces and build 50 community centers.
The opioid crisis is not part of the Bloc Québécois electoral plan.
With information from The Canadian Press