With a crisis swirling, Canada is at a crossroads.
Opioid use across the country has reached extremely dangerous levels. Canada is the second largest per capita consumer of opioids worldwide, and as a direct result provincial health-care systems are dealing with unprecedented numbers of overdoses and deaths related to addiction.
If we are to learn anything from the opioid crisis, it is the need for systemic changes to provide better care for people struggling with an addiction. We need to refocus our efforts to provide the services and resources they need — be it interventions such as harm reduction services or proven treatment — to conquer their disease and make strides toward recovery.
First, we have to recognize the barriers and critical gaps that currently exist in properly treating addiction. Addiction to alcohol and other drugs carries a stigma and is often perceived as a moral failing, but we must acknowledge that an addiction is a health condition.
We must recognize that recovery is an attainable and sustainable goal.
We must ensure the right supports and services, supported by scientific evidence, are in place to effectively help people living with addiction, and that these services are publicly funded, available and accessible in a timely fashion.
The National Research Agenda on Cannabis meeting in October brought together international and domestic experts to identify the research gaps and forge a path forward in advance of marijuana legalization. On the same day in Toronto, an exploration of substance use as a barrier to healthy aging among older adults was launched. A week later, Montreal hosted the Canadian and International Association of Addiction Medicine annual meeting and scientific conference bringing attention to the latest issues in addiction medicine and evidence.