In 2016, a report by a national health control agency stated that an estimated 6,000 people died of drug overdoses and that two-thirds of those deaths were caused by opioids.
On Wednesday, United States President Donald Trump signed legislation to directly tackle the opioid crisis which is plaguing the country.
“This bill is a major victory for Ohio and for the country because it will strengthen the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis. Importantly, this bill will increase access to long-term treatment and recovery while also helping to stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped into the United States through our own Postal Service," according to Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio.
The synthetic drug Fentanyl is at the heart of the opioid crisis. The drug is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
In 2016, a report by a national health control agency stated that an estimated 6,000 people died of drug overdoses and that two-thirds of those deaths were caused by opioids. Additionally, over the last six years, the level of addiction has increased by nearly 500 percent.
In Canada, specifically in British Columbia, a recent report states that opioids are causing a decrease in life expectancy, according to medical professional Dr. Theresa Tham. Since 2016, more than 80,000 Canadians died as a result of opioid overdoses, according to the Globe and Mail.
Fentanyl and the large availability of prescription opioids are some of the main drivers of the Canadian opioid crisis. As a response, the government has implemented new guidelines for prescriptions and increased resources being channeled for treatment programs, along with new regulations to ban commercialization of opioids.
Australia is another country that has long suffered from an opioid epidemic. In 2016, some 1,045 citizens aged between 15-64 died from opioid-related overdoses with 67 percent of these deaths being related to prescription opioids, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of South Wales (UNSW Sydney) disclosed.
But, unlike the United States and Canada, fentanyl is not at the center of the crisis.
“Although we are carefully monitoring the situation in Australia, at the moment, there is little evidence to suggest that the illicit fentanyl is driving many of the deaths,” Dr. Amy Peacock from UNSW said. She also mentioned that “one of the most important and effective strategies to reduce overdoses is increasing the availability of opioid substitution therapy.”
In Europe, the drug issue cannot be labeled as an epidemic, according to professor Bart Morlion, from Leuven University.
“Reports on increasing problems with opioids, particularly from North America, are mostly related to long-term prescription with a lack of careful patient selection and patient reassessment” and, “opioids are not without side effects. For this reason, they should only be prescribed in cases where there is a good balance between pain relief and side effects, where there are long-term benefits, and where other methods of treatment have failed,” Morlion explained.