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Opioid Crisis in Canadian Prisons Needs to be Addressed

They point out that Canadian and international law requires that people in prison receive the same standard of care as others: opioid agonist therapy (OAT). It is considered front-line treatment, provides medication (often “buprenorphine/naloxone or methadone”) to help manage cravings and withdrawals, and helps reduce associated hazardous behaviors such as HIV transmission and recidivism, the authors wrote March 24, 2020.

The report stated that prisons avoided treatment and responsibility by saying that health care was regulated by the Department of Health and Wellness and not Corrections. If a person was not on OAT upon intake, then they would not be provided OAT while incarcerated. Those on OAT were submitted to daily strip searches to supposedly prevent the hoarding and selling of their medications. That, however, served only to humiliate and discriminate against those on medication. Moreover, other prisoners would subject them to violence to obtain those medications.

The article said Canada should look to increase access to treatment or provide comprehensive OATs to combat this epidemic. “Until we make these changes, Canada’s most vulnerable will continue to endure extraordinary suffering at the hands of our government and the body count will continue to rise.” 



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