The Canadian model for the opioid crisis
Nicolas John for the R Street Institute: By discarding the prescription requirement for naloxone, the Canadian government has helped break down the powerful stigma that attaches to opioid users. The stigma of addiction can negatively affect a person’s self-esteem and damage relationships with loved ones. Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of stigma is its ability to prevent those suffering from addiction from accessing the treatment they need. And at the public health level, stigma results in widespread economic, social and medical costs.
Unfortunately, in the United States, a patchwork of state laws still governs this life-saving drug’s availability, and the federal government has deemed naloxone a prescription drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working with drug makers to follow Canada’s lead and develop an over-the-counter version for mass distribution. But more can be done.
The most controversial proposal to address the opioid crisis may also be the one with the most promise. Supervised injection facilities provide a safe space where people can consume previously obtained drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, under the supervision of staff trained to respond in the event of an overdose or other medical emergency. These spaces also provide a medium for counseling and referrals to other social and health services. As of November 2017, there were more than 25 approved supervised consumption sites (SCSs) across Canada.