Action needs to be taken on the opioid epidemic in Canada, starting within the prison system.
If prisons used sentences as rehabilitation periods rather than only punishments, it could lead to a decline of the opioid crisis, the number of re-incarcerations and deaths.
There were over 3,600 deaths across the country due to opioid overdoses in 2020, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
That was approximately ten lives lost each day for an entire year.
Opioids can be prescribed as over-the-counter drugs for pain or be produced, sold and consumed illegally.
The opioid fentanyl is a lethal drug that is a big factor in overdoses. Small doses can result in death as it is 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
When smoking, swallowing, snorting or injecting illegal opioids, users do not always know they have taken fentanyl. It is a strong yet short high, so it is commonly cut into other recreational drugs to cause euphoria and prolong the high.
In Canadian federal prisons, 48 per cent of inmates struggle with drug use, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.
There are few existing programs or accessible outreach for drug use despite that almost half of federal Canadian inmates struggle with addiction.
The programs available in prisons are the Offender Substance Abuse Pre-release Program, Alcoholics Anonymous, religious studies and more. In addition there is urine testing and use of drug dogs to eliminate the possession and use of any drug.
While six figures is a wealthy income for the average Canadian, it is a steady average of what is budgeted yearly for each inmate in federal prisons.
According to the most recent Update on Costs of Incarceration released by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the average cost per inmate was over 114 thousand dollars per year in 2020. In previous years, the cost of maximum security and solitary confinement for a single inmate has ranged from eight hundred dollars to 17 hundred dollars per day.
Implementing rehabilitation would lower rates of re-incarceration, which has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
Budgeting new rehabilitative programs could be worth the cost in the long run while also playing a role in ending the crisis at hand and saving lives.
Given the opioid epidemic, the staggering statistics and the money that should be put towards the betterment of inmates with addiction issues, Canada needs to reform prisons to be rehabilitative.
It is time to remember that each number written about is not just a number. Behind the information given are people with addictions that are deserving of a safe, happy and healthy normal life.
*Note: Free Naloxone kits can be accessed from Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies. Naloxone kits can undo the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives.*