Category Archives: Mental Health

Opioids Epidemic in Canada

Opioids are classes of powerful drugs that are primarily prescribe to treat severe pain. Opioids are depressant drugs, like alcohol, meaning they slow down the part of the brain that controls breathing. Opioids include illicit drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, as well as prescription medications, such as Percocet, morphine and codeine. Opioids are an effective medication when used as prescribed, but they carry a risk of addiction because of their powerful effects.
Canada is now the second largest consumer of prescription opioids, second only to the United States, and with a 203% increase in usage between 2000 and 2010 (Andresen, Martin, Boyd, Neil pg.112, 2009). That increase is greater than that of the United States, in spite of the US’s first place ranking for opioid use. An opioid overdose happens when a person takes an amount of a drug that is more than the body can process. The risk of overdose is higher when a person takes opioids in combination with other drugs (Kerr, et al., 2003). So far this year, 193 Albertans have died due to apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl compared with 205 deaths during the same period last year.
Among users of opioid pain relievers, 5.2% (or 243,000 Canadians representing 0.9% of the total population) reported abusing them. Among adult users of opioid pain relievers, 3.1% (corresponding to 0.5% of the total adult population) abused such drugs, an increase over the 2011 rates” (Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, 2012).
In Canada, the Government acknowledges that opioid overdose is a real threat to Canadians and with each passing day, more and more people are dying. The immediate goal is to make safe injection sites easier to open and fentanyl harder to smuggle into Canada (Broadhead et al., 2002). Safe injection sites (SIS) is a legally sanctioned health facility that offers a hygienic environment where people can use illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff (Kerr, Wood, Small, Palepu, and Tyndall, 2003). In Canada, from 2004 to 2013, there has been a 41% increase in drug-induced deaths. It’s no secret that substance abuse is a major problem in Canada and people are dying of overdose of opioids (Kerr, et al., 2003).

Mental Health

According to World Health Organization (WHO, 2014), mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. While mental health disorders are commonly known for their impact on health and well being, they also have an economic impact in terms of absenteeism, loss of productivity, unemployment and medical expenses.
In 2012, a total of 2.8 million Canadians aged 15 and older, or 10.1%, reported symptoms consistent with at least one of the following mental or substance use disorders: major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. Over the course of the lifetime, rates of substance use disorders were higher than the rates for mood disorders. About 6 million Canadians met the criteria for substance use disorder, while 3.5 million met the criteria for mood disorder. Females had higher rates of mood disorders and generalized anxiety disorder than males, while males had higher rates of substance use disorders.
Persons with mental disorders often suffer a wide range of human rights violations and social stigma.
Some people are more vulnerable and at higher risk of developing a mental illness than others. The factors that may contribute to a person’s risk include trauma and abuse, social isolation, homelessness, socio-economic disadvantage, physical or intellectual disability and genetic predisposition. Harmful use of alcohol and other drugs can significantly increase the occurrence of mental illness.
The first signs of mental illness may emerge in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Young people at risk of developing a mental illness may be those who have been bullied at school, children of parents with a mental illness, children linked with the criminal justice system, refugees and children brought up in a traumatic environment.
These children or young people at risk may already be linked to services offering counselling, or may be part of a youth group.
Stigma and discrimination are factors that can affect a person’s ability to seek help for mental illness. Stigma is a negative stereotype. Stigma is a reality for many people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life

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