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Prescription Drugs

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Psychoactive prescription drugs, such as opioids, stimulants, sedatives and tranquillizers, can be effective in helping people to manage pain and other conditions. They can also cause devastating harms, such as addiction, overdose or death.

The challenge is to reduce the harms associated with these drugs while ensuring Canadians have timely and appropriate access to them for therapeutic purposes.

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

  • The harm associated with psychoactive prescription drugs has emerged as one of the leading public health and safety concerns across North America.

  • 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). Globally, North America consumes approximately 80% of the world's opioids.

  • Deaths related to prescription opioid use doubled in just over 10 years in Ontario, from 13.7 deaths per million people in 1991 to 27.2 deaths per million people in 2004 (Dhalla, et al., 2009).

  • Some First Nations in Canada have declared a community crisis owing to the prevalence of the harms associated with prescription drugs (Dell, et al., 2012).

Addressing the harms associated with prescription drugs in Canada

Preventing problematic misuse of pharmaceuticals was identified as a priority in the National Framework for Action to Reduce the Harms Associated with Alcohol and Other Drugs and Substances in Canada and reinforced during a national dialogue convened by CCSA in 2012. In March 2013, CCSA, in partnership with the National Advisory Council on Prescription Drug Misuse, released a comprehensive 10-year, pan-Canadian strategy, First Do No Harm: Responding to Canada's Prescription Drug Crisis​.​

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

  • ​Learn about the progress made since the strategy launched: view the inaugural First Do No Harm​ ann​ual report. Also learn about the partners involved and the history of this collaborative strategy​​.​​ ​​ ​​​

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