Safer opioids needed to stem epidemic of overdoses: top public-health doctor

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says the need to increase access to a “safer supply” of opioids is being reviewed with provinces and territories — a move encouraged by a number of public health experts.

Tam’s comments come as the Public Health Agency of Canada releases data that says in the first half of 2018, opioid drugs were a factor in more than 2,000 deaths. That’s a higher death rate than the previous year.

Tam says a toxic drug supply is causing a key part of this epidemic.

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Fentanyl, a drug more powerful than heroin, is often mixed into opioids sold on the street, meaning users can’t know the potency of the drugs they take.

Tam says the country must “double down” on its efforts to address the opioid crisis, stressing the need for escalated treatment.

The health agency found more than 9,000 lives were lost in Canada between January 2016 and June 2018, suggesting the country has not been able to turn the tide on the crisis.

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