Publication: Opioid overdose prevention and response in Canada

May 6, 2014

The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition recently released a policy brief titled Opioid Overdose Prevention and Response in Canada. Consulting with experts who work in front-line overdose prevention program across Canada, the Coalition developed this brief to identify policy changes that can save lives. The policy brief can be accessed in PDF format on the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition's website at

Across Canada, far too many people are dying from drug overdoses. Deaths related to overdose due to opioids, whether used medically or non-medically, have risen sharply and are now the third leading cause of accidental death in Ontario (OHRDP 2013 Environmental Scan). Drug overdose is not confined to one group of people but can affect anyone, including people taking prescribed opioids.

The tragedy is that many of these deaths could have been prevented with measures such as training, increased availability of naloxone (an emergency medication that reverses the effects of opioids,) improved efforts to encourage people to call 911 during an overdose event, and better prescribing practices. The purpose of this policy brief is to discuss the multi-jurisdictional policy barriers that hinder the scale-up of opioid overdose prevention and treatment initiatives in Canada.

This brief provides an overview of the scant available data on drug overdoses in Canada and discusses key initiatives and policy changes that could mitigate the high number of injuries and deaths amongst people who use opioids. We close by offering recommendations to both the federal and provincial governments. This brief can be used to advocate for changes to the policy context of overdose. Readers interested in implementing overdose prevention programs are directed to an emerging set of excellent Canadian resources on this issue.

-excerpt from the CDPC policy brief Opioid Overdose Prevention and Response in Canada

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