Solving Canada’s opioid crisis

Photo drawn by Toby VanWeston

One of the main reasons people become addicted to drugs isn’t because they’re curious and want to try drugs. It is rooted in untreated childhood trauma. According to the CBC article “Fixing fentanyl means treating trauma that creates addicts,” Canada is facing an opioid crisis because it lacks the resources necessary to help traumatized individuals.

Canada’s justice system needs to rethink the way it handles people suffering from drug addiction. People found possessing illegal drugs are not criminals, rather they are damaged individuals coping the only way they know how… through self-medicating.

South of the border, the attempt to change substance abuse has become a war on drugs. But this isn’t a war on substances. It is a war on already traumatized individuals, which should be a crime in itself.

Only people in serious emotional pain are willing to harm their bodies and risk their lives to temporarily lessen that pain. About two out of three addicts have faced physical or sexual trauma during their childhood and most of them never received the proper help to move forward from these experiences, according to the organization Dual Diagnosis.

Childhood trauma changes the brain’s chemistry and increases the chances of addiction. Countless studies have shown childhood neglect or abuse is at the heart of the emotional patterns that cause addiction.

According to Dual Diagnosis, over 66 per cent of addicts experienced some form of childhood trauma, while only 49 per cent of diabetics are obese. This means there is a higher correlation between childhood trauma and addiction then there is between diabetes and obesity.

All legal and medical professionals need to become aware of this data if they want to implement any meaningful change to help fix Canada’s opioid epidemic.

Increasing the penalties for individuals who use drugs will not deter them from use. Yet before leaving office, Stephen Harper made Canada’s drug laws stricter and now B.C is facing the worst opioid crisis it has ever seen.

Our current drug laws do not rehabilitate users but instead punish them. This needs to change. If the money spent keeping drug addicts behind bars was put towards rehabilitation and addressing the root of the problem, our rates of drug addiction could be similar to that of the Netherlands where only 0.3 per cent of the population use opiates.

If the federal government wants to begin fixing the drug problem, there needs to be a reform of the drug laws in this country.

Supervised injection sites have begun to be implemented in B.C in the wake of fentanyl overdoses. These sites do not encourage people to use drugs. The focus is harm reduction, which involves using strategies to reduce negative consequences of drug use.

More injection sites, a change in our laws, and a focus on offering help to traumatized individuals are some ways the Canadian government could begin to fix the country’s drug problem. When it comes to dealing with Canadians that are addicted to drugs, a focus on rehabilitation instead of retribution would be a step in the right direction and just might begin to help Canada recover from its drug problem.

Editorial written by: Sam Odrowski