Canada's Opioid Epidemic

You likely remember the slogan, “Just say no to drugs.” It seems simple enough. The message that drugs are destructive is one that most would agree with. Few would argue against the reality that opioid use has terrifying consequences, yet demand for the product continues to grow. Why has Canada become a leading exporter in this dangerous product and how can one escape the clutches of addiction?

When we think of Canadian exports, we often think of oil, auto-manufacturing, fertilizers, wheat, and hockey players—things Canada has a natural abundance of or has the ability to produce in large quantities. However, there is a new export Canada is becoming known for—but is this a good thing? 

Mathieu Bertrand, RCMP chief superintendent of Serious and Organized Crime and Border Integrity, stated in an interview with the CBC, "Sadly, Canada is a producing country of fentanyl and synthetic opioids. Not only are we a producing country, we're an exporting country" ("Canadian-made fentanyl is an international problem,", November 18, 2023). Canada's opioid exports are known to be reaching Australia and New Zealand. Several drug busts in and near Toronto and Vancouver have resulted in the discovery of what are being called "super labs"—illicit manufacturing facilities capable of processing millions of doses of fentanyl. 

A recent Washington Post article highlights the specific threat posed by these facilities: "The super labs that police are finding in Canada differ [from those found in Mexico] because they are synthesizing the drug—not merely pressing pills—using precursor chemicals" ("Fentanyl super labs in Canada pose new threat for U.S. opioid epidemic,", December 24, 2023).  

Though Canada's economy has been struggling, it still boasts the ninth- or tenth-highest GDP in the world as only the thirty-eighth most populous nation. Historically, Canada has taken pride in using its wealth for the benefit of its own population as well as to aid other nations. Today, we find this opioid crisis as another example of modern Canada's determination to lead the way in moral decline. 

Home-grown production is also ensuring an ample supply of product for domestic users. In 2016, Canada announced a new strategy to combat the increasing prevalence of drug use. Rather than simply focusing on prevention, a new focus was introduced—"harm reduction." Some forms of drug use have been legalized despite concerns that legalizing one drug would lead to growth in the use of others. Billions of dollars have been spent to provide safe injection sites, free needles, stronger support services for mental health issues, and many other efforts to reduce the harm caused by dangerous drug use. Nevertheless, since that time, more than 30,000 Canadians have died as a result of opioid overdose. In 2022, an average of 20 Canadians died every day from this preventable ailment. 

Mark Haden, a professor at the University of British Columbia described the shortcomings of the current program: "If your success is measured by overdose deaths, we still have a complete disaster on our hands" ("Adding up the billions of government dollars directed at Canada's opioid crisis,", May 30, 2023). 

You likely remember the slogan, "Just say no to drugs." It seems simple enough. The message that drugs are destructive is one that most would agree with. Few would argue against the reality that opioid use has terrifying consequences, yet demand for the product continues to grow. A paper by the Mayo Clinic describes addiction and how self-destructive behaviour becomes powerfully compulsive for someone caught in the grasp of drugs:  

Addiction is a condition where something that started as pleasurable now feels like something you can't live without. Drug addiction is defined as an out-of-control feeling that you must use a medicine or drug and continue to use it even though it causes harm over and over again. Opioids are highly addictive, largely because they trigger powerful reward centers in your brain…. When an opioid dose wears off, you may find yourself wanting those good feelings back as soon as possible ("How opioid use disorder occurs," 

When watching interviews or speaking with someone caught in the grip of addiction, it is not difficult to realize that addiction is a form of bondage. What else could make someone huddle outside in a blizzard for a few puffs from a cigarette and a temporary hit of nicotine? Opioids are not the only addiction that plagues mankind. There is no shortage of vices that people know are not good for them in the long term—yet countless millions give themselves over to the control of addictive substances and behaviors, to such a degree that breaking free may require medical help. Addictions, which so often start as avoidable vices, can tragically turn many into their unwilling slaves. 

Our society must get to the point where it understands that harmful narcotics and their abuse is unacceptable at any level and can not be tolerated if this plague is to be stopped. Harm reduction strategies have not and will not work. 

The easiest way to avoid such addictions however, is to not get involved with them in the first place. In the description of this video, you'll find several links to additional Viewpoints on other topics relating to addiction such as the legalization of marijuana, vaping and sports betting. You may also be interested in reviewing our videos on The Mental Health Crisis of our Youth and the importance of Self Control.