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New Brunswick symposium aims to stay ahead of opioid crisis

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Fri, Dec 1: Health officials took part in a symposium on opioids to discuss how to address and mitigate the negative effects of an impending opioid abuse crisis. Jeremy Keefe reports – Dec 1, 2017

Around 100 health professionals from around New Brunswick took part in the Symposium on Opioids in Fredericton on Friday as part of an effort to stay ahead of an impending opioid crisis.

READ MORE: New Brunswick distributing 2,500 naloxone kits to deal with opioid use

New Brunswick’s opioid-related death rate remains relatively low at 3.4 per 100,000 people when compared to the national average of 7.8 per 100,000 people. But Health Minister Benoit Bourque says without action the numbers will only go up.

“We’re not at a crisis point yet,” he said. “However, we do know the question is not if, it’s when?”

Between January and July 2017, 17 residents died from an opioid overdose.

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“We have the opportunity to act now in order to mitigate the effects of what that crisis will be here in New Brunswick,” Bourque said.

Being proactive in the fight against a developing issue is something medical officials are saying can’t be started soon enough.

They view the crisis as years in the making and want to ensure the negative effects are minimized by organizing efforts long before it reaches critical mass.

“Something like today, the symposium, would allow us to start having those conversations where you get it out in the open, you get people more comfortable talking about the issues around opioid use,” said Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health.

“This could be the starting point of something like what you see the campaigns around mental health issues and things like that.”

WATCH: New Brunswick distributing 2,500 naloxone kits to deal with opioid use

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick distributing 2,500 naloxone kits to deal with opioid use' New Brunswick distributing 2,500 naloxone kits to deal with opioid use
New Brunswick distributing 2,500 naloxone kits to deal with opioid use – Nov 29, 2017

Removing the stigma surrounding opioid abuse to lessen the connection with recreationally used street drugs and broaden its meaning in the public opinion to include prescription users who’ve suffered injuries they say is key to moving forward and making progress in combating the problem.

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“Sometimes it’s not really the [person’s] fault,” said Bourque. “They went to get some treatment and that’s what they were given and because of that they became addicted.”

New Brunswick Medical Society President Dharm Singh says they are in full support of the prescription drug monitoring program and hope to do their part to reduce the amount of opioid prescriptions in the province.

“We’re also [holding] the various educational sessions for our members,” he explained. “That will also help in reducing and knowing [more] about this problem.”

The Department of Health also announced they have hired an epidemiologist to closely monitor the opioid use issue in New Brunswick.

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