It’s time to stop opioid prohibition and start regulation (Dr. Thomas Kerr)
During the era of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, an average of 1,000 people a year lost their lives from consuming illicitly produced alcohol in North America. The prohibition of alcohol forced its production into underground markets, without regulation or governmental oversight. As a result, the liquor produced was often contaminated, unpredictable in its potency and caused blindness, hallucinations and death.
In 2017, it is estimated that between six and seven Canadians lose their lives to drug overdose every day. In British Columbia, 922 people lost their lives last year, the worst year in its history for overdose deaths, and new data for 2017 shows that the situation is getting worse. Someone in Ontario dies of opioid overdose every 13 hours. Increasingly in both provinces, an unregulated, illicitly produced opioid known as fentanyl is responsible.
How did we get here again almost 100 years after alcohol prohibition? Much of the problem began with the overprescribing of opioid medications and assurances from some in the pharmaceutical industry that these drugs were safe and non-addictive. This spawned an opioid-use epidemic like never seen before in North America.
Written by Jordan Westfall and Dr. Thomas Kerr
Angela White, St. Paul's Hospital Volunteer