An introduction to Canada's opioid crisis, 2018

From HLWIKI Canada
Jump to: navigation, search
Are you interested in contributing to HLWIKI International? contact:

To browse other articles on a range of HSL topics, see the A-Z index.


Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 15 April 2018


See also Consumer health information | Finding health information for British Columbians Bc flag.png | Integrative medical care | Medical marijuana (cannabis) | Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The opioid crisis in Canada is an increasing threat to all Canadians; according to the CMAJ in March 2018 "Opioid use disorder is one of the most challenging forms of addiction facing the Canadian health care system, and a major contributor to the marked rises in opioid-related morbidity and death that Canada has been seeing in recent years. The evolving landscape of nonmedical opioid use has become increasingly dominated by prescription opioids diverted from the medical system and, more recently, by highly potent, illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl and its analogues, including carfentanil)...". The growing number of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids (see 2016 statistics), and now the rise of fentanyl (and its analog Carfentanil or carfentanyl), is an increasing public health emergency across the country. The phrase used most to describe (and thus search for) the topic in Canada is opioid crisis. Though this phrase also locates some American resources, the phrase most commonly used in the United States is opioid epidemic. The crisis is a complex health and social issue that needs an evaluated response from all health workers, including librarians in hospitals and public libraries, as well as members of the general public. Though much of the discussion around opioids is generally associated with recreational street drugs, it is also important to note that opioids continue to be legitimately prescribed to individuals who suffer from chronic pain.

The epidemic is not confined to Canada's major urban centres such as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Ottawa and cities on the east coast. Opioid use disorder is a public health emergency nationwide. The main issue is withdrawal management coupled with the loss of tolerance (and high rates of relapse). Stepped care approaches are required involving opioid agonist treatment with buprenorphine–naloxone as a first-line treatment, progressing toward methadone as second-line if required; then, if needed and appropriate, toward slow-release oral morphine with the support of a specialist. Further, evidence-based harm-reduction approaches such as naloxone programs and novel treatments not yet widely available in Canada and must be urgently provided. Rural areas of Canada are also affected. The national response to the opioid crisis in Canada is being lead by several branches of government and medical organizations, which aim to be comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based in their resolutions.

Note: academic health science librarians and hospital librarians can play a critical role in the opioid overdose epidemic. See category below "What librarians are doing".


  • 4-star.gif 4 stars denotes librarian-selected, high quality information. Starred sites are great places to begin your research.
  • PubmedHealth1.png PubMed Health provides health information written at the college or university-level. Medlineplus3.gif MedlinePlus (U.S.) provides access to easy-to-read health information.
  • An online or print publication intended to present Canadian health information for Canadians 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

Pre-searching & browsing

Much of the discussion points to changing prescription practices and pain treatment habits, the need to create stronger policies and regulations, and to educate patients and their families about limiting their risk of opioid addiction; as well as care for loved ones struggling with substance abuse and addictions.

See also today's headlines via Twitter hashtag #opioid

British Columbia

Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

United States

What librarians are doing

Librarians around the world can assume unique roles in dealing with the opioid crisis within their communities. This is particularly true of public libraries in the United States and Canada as their services and spaces are often the most openly accessible to individuals who are struggling with opioid addiction, and are located in urban centres near the epicentre of the epidemic. In some cases (mostly in the United States but increasingly in Canada and elsewhere), librarians may assume the role of first responders in the crisis, and in assisting those experiencing an overdose. It is therefore important for librarians to be aware of current initiatives taking place at libraries within their regions, and training opportunities that can provide them with the skills necessary to help those in need.

  • "...Both academic health science librarians and hospital librarians have a critical role in the opioid overdose epidemic. Whether it is in the distillation of “cutting edge” research information, e.g., pharmacological advances, behavioral research or implementing the newest 'evidenced-based practices' there is much more to be done. With the advent of super opioids, e.g., fentanyl and carfentanil, the scope of the opioid epidemic is still evolving. Providing up-to-date health and safety information is crucial."
  • WebJunction and PLA invites libraries and their community partners to join this virtual town hall discussion about current library needs and possible responses to the nation's opioid crisis.

See also



The HLWIKI International Advisory makes consumer health information (CHI) available to all -- however, it is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice or as a substitute for consulting a doctor. While we strive to keep all content current and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability or suitability of information, products, services, or related graphics contained here or on any of the websites listed. Only qualified health providers can provide health care e.g., they will take your health history, examine you, and bring their expertise and experience to bear on evaluating you. Put simply, advice regarding your care should always include your physician and other health providers. Please ask your local health librarian for further assistance.
Personal tools