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In recent years, an opioid epidemic has swept through North America, spawning a public health crisis. While opioids are legitimately prescribed by doctors to control pain, some people can quickly become dependent on them.

What’s more, illicit opioids, including the dangerous drug fentanyl, are often bought on the street. Too many Canadians have seen a loved one become dependent on prescribed or illicit opioids, often with devastating results. Every day, about 11 Canadians die from opioid-related incidents.

New Brunswick is not immune to this trend. Opioids like oxycodone, dilaudid and morphine are prescribed by doctors in this province, and illegal and synthetic opioids can be found on our streets or are added to other illicit drugs.

Taken as prescribed, opioids can help safely manage pain or treat chronic conditions – but it’s crucial that New Brunswickers understand the risks that come with any form of opioid use.

   

 

“Opioids are supposed to relieve pain, but they can cause it, too. Anyone in our family can tell you that. After my husband’s biking accident, he slipped into opioid dependency. It’s an illness. We found the help we needed, and you can, too.”

 

Opioid dependence can happen to anyone, from any walk of life, yet there is a stigma attached to opioid dependence that leads to shame and isolation. That often prevents those with an opioid problem from seeking help, either from their family or healthcare professionals.

We need to end the stigma about opioid dependence. Stigma prevents individuals from disclosing their opioid use disorder to their friends and family, meaning that they will continue using alone. Solitary opioid use increases the risk of death from an overdose. Drug dependence is not a moral failure or shortcoming; opioid dependence is a chronic relapsing disease.

We need to have open and honest conversations about opioid dependence in New Brunswick and let people know that help is available. That means all of us, from healthcare professionals to parents to the media, need to consider the language we use to talk about drug use and ensure that we show empathy and respect to those battling a dependence problem.

 

Opioids like morphine have been used for many years to treat pain. They limit the body’s response to pain and in many cases produce a euphoric high. Although some opioids are made directly from poppy plants, most are manufactured in labs by scientists mimicking the plant’s chemical structure. That includes fentanyl, an opioid analgesic that is responsible for many of the deaths that have occurred during Canada’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl is similar to morphine but can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent. Doctor-prescribed fentanyl is applied via skin patches, injections or tablets. Illegal fentanyl is commonly distributed in powder form or added to common street drugs like cocaine, heroin or MDMA (also known as Ecstasy or Molly). Fentanyl’s potency and availability lead to thousands of overdoses each year in Canada alone.

 

You can download several posters and a brochure highlighting the risks of opioid dependence. Print them out and share them in your workplace, community centre or not-for-profit so people understand the risks and know that help is available. Opioid dependence can happen to anyone, so we all need to learn how to identify it and help those facing it.

You can also find out more about how to opioid dependence on the following websites: