The most commonly used street drugs in London, Ontario are not actually street drugs, they are prescription opiates. This includes such things as Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet, Dilaudid, Fentanyl, etc. These substances originate from prescriptions at hospitals, walk-ins, or family doctors, or are diverted from pharmacies, or stolen from hospital supplies. Some individuals divert their entire prescription, some use part and divert the rest. Opiate addiction is powerful as there is a strong physical effect and change in neuro-chemicals that make the need to use more substance inevitable, and the ability to stop more difficult.
In Ontario, Bill 101 is a well intentioned attempt to reduce the harm in communities of prescription opiate use. The bill is focused on more ‘responsible’ prescribing of narcotics for physicians, requiring disclosure of information around monitored substances. Having received Royal Assent in November of 2010, the bill has begun to have the intended effect of reducing the prescribing of opiates. Subsequently, availability on the street has gone down, and price per unit has gone up.
At the same time as Bill 101 has been rolling out, in the U.S. they have started reconstituting opiates with antagonists so that if they are crushed or dissolved, the effect is negated. This has led to a large decrease in the supply coming from the 11 hospitals in Metro Detroit, that land first in Windsor.
What is the outcome? Unfortunately, the outcome is not a reduction in narcotic addiction. Making substances more difficult to access does not constitute a treatment for addiction. Rather, what we are seeing is a resurgence of heroin use in Ontario, with Windsor leading the way. We will likely actually see an increase in harm in our communities, as the heroin trade comes with all sorts of unpleasant components that do not exist when an individual experiencing addiction is simply obtaining substances through a prescription, theirs or someone else’s.