Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann gathered together seven panelists including additions specialists, caregivers, addicts and family of those who’ve died due to overdose to flesh out the opioid crisis in Alberta and discover how well the province is handling the skyrocketing number of related deaths.
Dr. Swann left the town-hall meeting with a clear understanding that the proliferation of illegal prescription drugs is out of control.
“We’ve had a 5,000% increase in the numbers since 2012, any other issue that affected individuals and the public and created unsafe conditions for so many people in this province would be resulting in an emergency situation.”
One idea Dr. Swann says he could get behind is decriminalizing drugs and treating them as medical issues.
“I think the evidence is growing and according to the panelists the evidence from Switzerland, from Portugal is reinforcing the notion that making things illegal adds to the complications of getting people help.”
He says to combat the problem there needs to be more education on the dangers of opioid use, recognize that this a long term problem and to provide help early on to those who are asking for it.
“We have a lot of groundwork to do just to get in control of the increasing numbers of people that appear and are put on wait lists for substitute therapy and observed therapy.”
Dr. Swann says the panelists reinforced that the opioid situation in Alberta is more out of control, but says when it comes to combatting the issue, the NDP government has been receptive to help.
“Both the minister and the associate minister are open to hearing different perspectives, they realize they don’t know what they need to know to manage this crisis and they’re reaching out to experts and to even across the aisle.”
He says Health Minister Sarah Hoffman should declare a medical state of emergency in order to marshal the resources needed to properly combat opioids like Fentanyl. Swann says it’s a medical problem which casts a social stigma.