By Leo Glavine
Far too many deaths have happened from abusing prescription drugs. This national problem causes me deep concern, as minister and as a citizen.
I have worked closely with Amy Graves, the sister of a young man who died from mixing prescription drugs with alcohol. After the tragic loss of her brother, Amy's mission has been to raise awareness on the devastating effects of prescription drug misuse.
In Nova Scotia, we have seen a 112 per cent increase in the number of people in withdrawal management for opiate dependency since 2006. We are working hard to turn things around by developing prescription drug education resources for middle schools for this fall, and supporting students with substance use-related problems through our SchoolsPlus family of schools. This all builds on the work of our first mental health and addictions strategy, which also addresses access to treatment for opioid dependency.
This is what Nova Scotia is doing to tackle prescription drug abuse. But, we need more support from our federal government.
The $44.9 million in programming announced in last week's federal budget will help address this issue, but there are three specific things the federal government can do to support the fight against prescription drug abuse.
First is the need for a robust national plan for monitoring and surveillance across Canada. This will give us better information related to drug deaths, and better data to inform policies and services. If we can better track it, then we can better address it.
The second thing is to consider the level of accessibility and marketing of prescription drugs, while ensuring those who need the drugs can get it.
Nova Scotia saw an increase in drug deaths related to prescription drugs after pharmaceutical companies were given the right to directly market their drugs to physicians.
When we consider the staggering fact Canada is number two in the world in prescribing narcotics, something must be done. The president of the United Nations Narcotics and Control Board held us to task on this statistic last year, and it is my deepest wish to turn this statistic around.
Finally, the federal government should take the lead on supporting a pan-Canadian network of prescription monitoring programs to facilitate best practices and sharing of information.
My goal is make Nova Scotia, and Canada, a worldwide leader in addressing prescription drug misuse.
Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine was asked to submit a presentation on government's role in addressing prescription drug abuse to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. This is a summary of his presentation.