Poll finds one-in-five Canadians prescribed opioids

Jessica Kerr - Vancouver Courier

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A new poll finds higher rate of B.C. residents consider number of opioid-related deaths a crisis. Photo Dan Toulgoet

One-in-five Canadians say they have been prescribed opioids in the last five years, according to polling numbers released Thursday morning.

The new public opinion poll from Angus Reid also found that one-in-eight Canadians, the equivalent of close to 3.5 million people, say they have close friends or family members who have become dependent on opioids in the last five years.

Metro Vancouver and B.C. has become the epicentre for the crisis. The latest numbers from the BC Coroners Service show 1,103 deaths attributed to illicit drug overdose as of Sept. 30.

Eighty overdose deaths were reported province-wide in September, representing a 31 per cent increase from September 2016. By this time last year, 607 deaths were reported.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of drug overdose deaths in Vancouver has more than quadrupled, and B.C. saw the largest number of opioid-related deaths in the country in 2016.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that B.C. residents are paying closer attention to the issue with almost half (49 per cent) saying they are following the issue and consider it a crisis. Similarly, 44 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents said they consider it a crisis.

However, according to the findings, residents here are no more likely to be prescribed opioids than those in other provinces. Seventeen per cent of survey respondents in this province said they had been prescribed opiates, which is in line with findings in other provinces. Manitoba and Quebec had the lowest rate at 14 per cent, while Alberta had the highest at 24 per cent.

The survey also addressed the response to the crisis with 55 per cent of respondents across the country saying the federal government has not done enough and 49 per cent saying their provincial government has put too few resources into tackling the public health issue.

Thirty-four per cent of B.C. residents said they are strongly in favour of supervised injection sites with another 32 per cent saying they are moderately in favour of the measure.

Last month, the provincial government opened an “overdose emergency response centre” at Vancouver General Hospital in an effort to reduce the number of people dying of a drug overdose.

@JessicaEKerr

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