Federal Action on Opioids

The growing number of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids (powerful pain relieving drugs) is a national public health crisis. The Minister of Health has made addressing this crisis a top priority.

The Government of Canada is taking a leadership role by using all of its available tools. We are working with provinces, territories and other partners across the country to take a collaborative approach to the crisis. On November 18 and 19, 2016, the Minister of Health brought together health partners to commit to joint action. The Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis outlines the combined commitment of over 30 partner organizations to respond to this crisis. The statement was created as a result of the Opioid Conference and Summit.

What is the opioid crisis?

The opioid crisis can be linked to the rapid rise in rates of drug overdoses and death involving both:

  • prescription opioids; and
  • increasingly toxic illegal drugs due to the increased presence of powerful illegal substances, such as fentanyl, a drug 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

Anyone who uses drugs can be at risk of an overdose, including those who:

  • are struggling with problematic substance use
  • use drugs occasionally in a recreational context
  • are trying an illegal drug for the first time
  • are not strictly following their health care professionals’ instructions

What is the Government of Canada doing about the opioid crisis?

Under the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis, Health Canada committed to take new action across the Health Portfolio.

The Health Portfolio’s actions to address the opioid crisis complement the Government of Canada’s overall approach to drug policy, which is:

  • collaborative
  • compassionate
  • comprehensive
  • evidence-based

These values are reflected in our Canadian drugs and substances strategy. Led by the Minister of Health, this strategy is a balanced and health-focused approach to drug policy, involving:

  • a strong foundation in evidence
  • the restoration of harm reduction
  • prevention
  • treatment
  • enforcement

The Government of Canada is committed to taking action on Canada’s opioid crisis through a targeted public health emergency response and through:

  1. Prevention
  2. Treatment
  3. Harm reduction
  4. Enforcement

Actions in these areas will be supported by a strong evidence base.

Please see Government of Canada Actions on Opioids: 2016 and 2017 for an overview of the actions taken by the Government of Canada since early 2016 to address the opioid crisis.

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