Saskatchewan's addiction crisis needs awareness

The dictionary definition of addiction is “the state of being compulsively committed to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

At the moment, Saskatchewan (and the rest of Canada) is facing a crisis. While many are noticing stress, substance abuse is alarmingly making an impact.

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General signs of addiction are lack of control or inability to stay away from a substance or behaviour, decreased socialization, such as abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships and ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences.

One can be addicted to many things such as gambling, chocolate, sex, the internet, shopping, food, work tattoos, alcohol or drugs just to name a few.

A statement was provided by the province’s Official Opposition Critic for Mental Health and Addictions Doyle Vermette.

With the shocking news that Saskatchewan saw more than one overdose death per day in the month of January, the NDP Critic for Mental Health and Addictions Doyle Vermette released the following statement:

"Every overdose death in our province is a tragedy. No parent or family member should lose a loved one to addiction. We know that last year already doubled the highest year on record for overdose deaths in our province - and this year looks like the toll in lives will be even more severe.”

She continued, “Addiction takes a heavy toll on our communities and on families. That is why it is so frustrating that the Sask. Party government seems content to ignore this crisis instead of coming forward with a clear and comprehensive strategy to eliminate the wait times for detox and treatment. The overdose crisis has spiralled out of control on this government’s watch. The status quo is not acceptable.”

Vermette added, “Saskatchewan needs an evidence-based strategy to tackle our opioid and crystal meth crisis, focusing on awareness and harm reduction. We need it now. We need real treatment options in our major centres, but also in Northern, remote and rural communities as well. The overdose crisis is real and it is everywhere in our province. Not to act is to accept more deaths and more tragedy.”

An overdose is when you take more than the normal or recommended amount of something, often a drug. An overdose may result in serious, harmful symptoms or death. If you take too much of something on purpose, it is called an intentional or deliberate overdose.

Statistics showed that there were 172 confirmed drug toxicity deaths last year; however, there are another 207 suspected drug deaths awaiting confirmation. If even six of those are confirmed, 2020 would become Saskatchewan’s deadliest year on record for drug overdoses.

In 2019, there were 177 recorded overdose deaths and in 2018 there were 171.

Fentanyl was the most deadly drug, causing 76 accidental overdose deaths. Acetyl fentanyl caused 62 deaths, while Hydromorphone caused 54.

Fentanyl, also spelled fentanil, is an opioid used as a pain medication and together with other medications for anesthesia. It is also used as a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin or cocaine. It has a rapid onset and its effects generally last under two hours.

Acetyl fentanyl is an opioid analgesic drug that is an analog of fentanyl. Studies have estimated acetyl fentanyl to be fifteen times more potent than morphine. It has never been licensed for medical use and instead has only been sold as a designer drug.

Hydromorphone, also known as dihydromorphinone, and sold under the brand name Dilaudid among others, is an opioid used to treat moderate to severe pain. Typically, long-term use is only recommended for pain due to cancer. It may be used by mouth or by injection into a vein, muscle, or under the skin.

These substances are making a lasting impact on Canadian society in an unfortunate way. Those seeking help in our area can contact two places in Yorkton. Addiction Services can be reached at 306-786-0558 and the Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) Addiction Services at 306-786-0558 (the same number).

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