A new poll shows it’s more likely than ever that you know someone struggling with an opioid addiction.
The opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute shows that one in eight Canadians have a family member or close friend who have become dependent on opioids in the past five years.
It also showed that 26 per cent of Canadians would consider the opioid issue “a crisis” and 42 per cent would call it “a serious problem”
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Regina drug and alcohol counsellor Rand Teed said. “And if you look at society in general it’s probably one in and four that has a family member or family-association of someone with a substance problem, and opiate problems are part of that larger substance abuse problem issue that we’re dealing with.”
According to the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Office, 25 people died of accidental opioid overdoses in Saskatchewan last year, excluding cases that are still under investigation.
That number has dipped from previous years; in 2016, 69 people died of accidental opioid overdoses and in 2015 that number was 80.
“In Saskatchewan we have not experienced that same opioid crisis that some of the other jurisdictions in Canada have,” Ministry of Health director of mental health & addictions Kathy Willertth said.
But Teed says in recent years he’s seen an increase in opiate usage with youth he works with.
“I work with a lot of adolescents and there’s been an increase in opiate use in that community, just because it’s so much more available,” Teed said.
Teed says the other issue is that opiates are getting mixed in with other drugs.
“Right now in Regina, Xanax is a really popular street drug and there’s been incidents of opioids showing up in that,” he said, adding that opiates are appearing in other drugs like cocaine and Molly (ecstasy).
“We’ve done a good job in Regina of naloxone distribution so we’ve had fewer lethal overdoses than some places and because it’s a smaller community it’s a little easier for people to get help when they need it.”
He also said the issue has increased wait times at treatment centres in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon.
The Angus Reid poll also showed that only 26 per cent of Saskatchewan residents say they’re seeing a lot of coverage on the opioid issue, and they’re discussing it with family and friends.
“One of the problems we’ve faced with substance use disorders, whether it’s opiate or alcohol or marijuana or anything, is that there’s shame and stigma involved in it,” Teed said.
“If you have a family member that has cancer, you’ll pull all your resources together, talk to your neighbours, talk to your family, and pull lots of help in. If you’ve got a family member with a substance problem, people tend to hide that and it makes it harder for them to go and get help.”
“It’s really important to get help. Having a substance isn’t a moral problem, it isn’t a bad person problem; substance problems are an impacted brain disease.”