Fentanyl Crisis Echoes Mistakes Of HIV/AIDS Response

Executive Chairman
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This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on May 21, 2017.

As was the case with AIDS, many people believe fentanyl will never be an issue for them personally. But it’s becoming clear fentanyl is an issue that will affect all Canadians.

Abuse of fentanyl, the highly addictive opioid pain medication, is taking a menacing toll across Canada.

Opioid-related overdoses killed 1,400 Canadians last year. To label the situation a coast-to-coast crisis is a massive understatement.

Fentanyl can be found in knock-off prescription painkillers, in party drugs and even in cocaine.

The fact that other drugs are being laced with fentanyl means that drug users often haven’t actively sought out the “thrill” of fentanyl and don’t even realize what they’ve done until it’s too late.

My firm, Navigator, has recently conducted a nationwide survey on public opinion relating to the fentanyl crisis in Canada.

Today, only half of Canadians say they are familiar with fentanyl-related issues. What’s more troubling is that those most vulnerable, those aged 16 to 17, are least familiar. Only 4 in 10 teens are aware of the crisis.

The impact has, to date, been uneven across our country and so, therefore, has awareness. For example, 70 per cent of British Columbians express awareness compared to only 49 per cent of Torontonians.

The fentanyl crisis has spread so quickly, the public hardly noticed it was happening. Government officials didn’t notice it either. As a result, it went largely unaddressed. And as so often happens, issues affecting the poorest or most vulnerable among us are the last to be noticed. It has only been as the crisis has transcended class lines and begun affecting suburban teenagers that the outcry has begun.

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