Hughes marks International Overdose Awareness Day with call to treat addiction as health issue

With seventeen Canadians dying every day from opioid related causes, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing NDP candidate Carol Hughes is marking International Overdose Awareness Day as an opportunity for Canadians to reconsider their impression of addiction.

“The last year-and-a-half was harder than usual. For some, the isolation led to an increase in drug and alcohol consumption,” said Hughes.  “While many may realize they need help, some won’t seek it due to a sense of shame. This is why we need to end any stigma attached to addiction, stop viewing it as a moral issue, and treat it as a health problem first and foremost.”

Hughes is dismayed that the opioid crisis has yet to be declared a public health emergency despite the growth in use and lives lost.

“These are highly addictive and dangerous drugs that can be found in our smallest communities and our biggest centres,” said Hughes. “New Democrats know there is more we can do to support people struggling with opioids and that starts by declaring a public health emergency.”

Hughes believes a stronger federal response is possible but recognizes there is a role for all levels of government to play in the ever-changing landscape surrounding opioids.

“Fentanyl is coming into our communities from so many directions that it makes sense to offer strong and effective supports for those struggling with addiction,” said Hughes. “Ten years ago, there was a focus on stemming the illegal trade in prescription drugs. Now, people are mixing fentanyl in makeshift labs and pressing pills that look legitimate but can be deadly.”

Hughes says that bringing the conversation into the open will explain the urgent need to build supports that can make a real difference for those who find themselves dependent on opioids, their loved ones, and their communities.

“People need to feel they can receive the help they need without fear of arrest,” said Hughes. “If we treat addiction as a public health issue, we can secure safe supplies and help those who want to wean themselves from a substance. This doesn’t mean we can’t get tough on those who traffic and profit from illegal drugs, it just makes the most vulnerable in the equation the immediate priority.”