Addiction, and The Opioid Crisis in Canada
At this very moment, one in every ten people in Canada are suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Substance abuse numbers are growing every day in our country, and we are not immune to it. Canadian statistics state that forty seven thousand Canadians are dying from this abuse each year, and the number is rising drastically. Approximately one hundred and twenty nine Canadians will die today from drug abuse. This number has tripled over the past thirty years. Chances are, there is someone in my life today, your life today, that has struggled with or been affected by someone who is an alcoholic or a drug addict. We are without defence against addiction in Canada.
Canada’s Crisis with Addiction
Many of you have heard in recent news about the opioid crisis that has swept across our nation from West to East. More recently, a synthetic opioid drug called Fentanyl has created an epidemic here in Canada which has triggered a public-health emergency across the country. Fentanyl is up to one hundred times more toxic, and addictive than morphine. It is primarily used in medicine as a prescription for those in extreme pain such as cancer. Just one tiny grain of fentanyl the size of salt can be deadly to someone who comes in contact with it through inhalation, absorption, or ingestion. You can not see, smell, or taste this narcotic.
Today, this drug is being sold illegally on the streets of Canada and people are unaware. Endless types of fentanyl are being added into and cut with other drugs that come in pill, and powder forms on the street. One example of this is Carfentanil, a type of fentanyl used as an elephant tranquilizer. Any drugs created with Carfentanil have the potential to kill someone with just one pill. These drugs being produced and sold falsely as pharmaceuticals across Canada are killing teens and young adults. Fentanyl is a deadly drug in disguise to Canadians across the country.
It has been proven by researchers that teens and young adults have brains which are more vulnerable towards addiction to opioids such as fentanyl. The prefrontal cortex in the brain that is responsible for decision making does not fully develop until after age twenty five, which means they are vulnerable with the inability to problem solve rationally. The teen brain is simply not an adult brain, and opioids are every parent’s worst nightmare. Studies have shown that the average age which drug use begins in Canada is only sixteen years old, and twenty one percent of teens have been reported using opioid pain relievers. The opioid crisis is not just known to be a street problem anymore. An academic student from a good home in British Columbia was found dead in a Starbucks bathroom August of last year from an overdose.
As a firefighter for the City of Ottawa, this epidemic is a relevant issue that I have been exposed to and affected by in my everyday life. I have had extensive training on how to identify opioid overdoses, and I carry the anti-opioid medication called ‘Narcan’ on me to save a person’s life. In Ottawa this year there have already been two girls, ages fourteen and eighteen that have overdosed from opioids and one of them was recently confirmed a victim of fentanyl. When Chief of Police Charles Bordeleau was interviewed about these young women he stated, “Education about the dangers of these drugs, prevention, harm reduction, and solid treatment programs are needed in order for us to tackle this issue in our community.” First responders across the country are battling this crisis, but more needs to be done to help save young people in our country.
The Voice for Addiction
If chosen to be the next Miss World Canada, I would love nothing more than to pursue my passion for recovery. I believe that education, prevention, and help resources for addiction need to be available today in Canada, and it needs to become a priority. I intend to travel across this country to perform public speaking engagements in middle schools and high schools with police, firefighters, and paramedics for the youth that so desperately need to hear about addiction. I believe that this is the most effective place to start. A recent study shows that eighty three percent of Ontario students in grade twelve consume alcohol, almost fifty percent of these students admit to being binge drinkers, and seventeen percent have taken non-prescription pain killers, (which could include fentanyl being sold on the street).
A new report states that in the province of Ontario fentanyl related deaths have increased five hundred and forty eight percent from 2006 to 2015 and those numbers are escalating. Awareness about addiction starts with the young people in our country. Students need to be educated about recognizing signs of addictive behaviour towards substances. They need to know about the opioid crisis in Canada, and about these deadly drugs being sold on the streets and in their schools. Teens also need to hear about treatment options available if they are seeking help such as rehabilitation, twelve step programs, and crisis support.
The younger generations are Canada’s future. I am confident that the sooner we make young people aware of the opioid crisis in Canada, and what addiction is the faster we can get those who are suffering help. Together, we can start saving the lives of those addicted across Canada. One hundred and twenty nine Canadians will die today. What part will you play in the public-health emergency that is taking the lives of young people right now in our country? Thank you, and God Bless.