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Prescription Drugs and Opioids

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Canada is facing an urgent challenge: to reduce the harms associated with psychoactive prescription drugs while ensuring people have timely and appropriate access to them for therapeutic reasons. These products include opioids, stimulants, sedatives and tranquillizers. They can also cause devastating harms, such as addiction, overdose or death.

Why is reducing the harms associated with prescription drugs a CCSA priority?

Canada is now the second-largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids (exceeded only by the United States), according to the International Narcotics Control Board (2013). This makes it one of the leading public health and safety concerns across North America.

Some First Nations in Canada have declared a community crisis owing to the prevalence of the harms associated with prescription drugs.

Addressing the harms associated with prescription drugs in Canada

Preventing problematic misuse of pharmaceuticals has long been a priority of CCSA, and we have seen progress on this front as CCSA works with partners in the field.

  • CCSA is a key player in a community of partners whose goal is to reduce the harms of opioids. It has released a report prepared for the federal Minister of Health. The report outlines progress made in the first three months of the effort outlined in the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis in Canada.

  • ​CCSA has developed a Naloxone Costing Tool to help jurisdictions evaluate how they can make naloxone more accessible — a move that could decrease the number of lives lost to opioid overdose. The tool will allow drug-program managers to generate an estimate of drug-plan costs associated with covering naloxone and providing take-home naloxone kits. The briefing note provides further detail and explanation.​​​

  • The First Do No Harm strategy highlights actions required to address the harms associated with prescription drugs in Canada in the areas of prevention, education, treatment, monitoring and surveillance, and enforcement.