Editorial: We cannot afford to ignore the opioid epidemic

Shutterstock

This week’s Expositor includes a special supplement focussed on the “other” epidemic currently ravaging our nation, the thousands of individuals across this nation succumbing to opioid overdoses every year—racking up more than 1,000 in the first three months of 2020 alone; by June 2020 the Ontario Chief Coroner had announced a 25 percent increase in suspected drug related deaths between March and May.

Yet despite these frightening numbers, some conservative politicians at all levels of government continue to balk at the efforts of underfunded volunteer, health and non-profit groups to combat overdose deaths—worse, they actively oppose the implementation of proven strategies such as supervised injection sites. Ideology has no place in health sciences, but compassion does.

For too long simple (and relatively inexpensive) means to turn back the tide have been resisted, leaving a rising number of families to mourn the loss of their children, siblings and parents to this pernicious scourge. The roadblocks placed upon those means are cloaked in righteous proclamations claiming, without any legitimate research, that supervised injection sites encourage and enable drug abuse. 

In plain point of fact, backed by solid health research science, supervised injection sites save lives, providing time for those individuals to find their way through management of their addictions and, in many cases, moving on to productive lives.

Counter to social media wisdom, many opioid addicts came by their illness due to pain medication prescribed by doctors who had been convinced by huge pharmaceutical companies that their products were not addictive. Others may have turned to drug addiction due to social issues that have also been too long ignored by our nation’s health and social systems.

It is time to get past righteous indignation and ideological pandering to the puritanical and get down to dealing with the issues that underlie the opioid pandemic—too many lives depend upon it.