Global Commission on Drug Policy Releases The Opioid Crisis in North America

Today the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a position paper, The Opioid Crisis in North America. As the Commission site notes, the position papers are developed to “address specific and urgent situations involving drug policy around the world. These Papers do not aim to be comprehensive reports.”

Sections within the paper are broken down into roots of the problem (prescription opioids, non-medical use, synthetic opioids); the epidemic in Canada; reactions by authorities; lessons learned and recommendations.

These are some of the recommendations that appear in the Executive Summary:

  • Do not cut the supply of prescription opioids without first putting supporting measures in place
  • Make proven harm reduction measures and treatment widely available
  • Improve balance of regulation and physician education, among other possibilities to maximize pain care but minimize harmful effects of opioids
  • Decriminalize drug use and possession for personal use
  • Continue with research into social determinants of health and best practices for treating opioid addiction


In the section on the situation in Canada, the paper says there’s a lack of information to determine how much of Canada’s opioid epidemic is related to medical use. It notes,


“Nearly half of Canada’s known opioid overdose deaths occur in British Columbia, which has had high rates of injecting drug use for decades. More than 80% of overdose victims in this region are male —while, in contrast, chronic pain populations tend to be more than half female.”


The paper goes on to say that while our healthcare system might offer better protection and services than in the US, the need for services outstrips the availability. Many of the organizations in PAN’s membership can undoubtedly speak to that.


Read the complete position paper, The Opioid Crisis in North America

Read the Press Release on the paper


Learn More:

The Global Commission on Drug Policy

Advancing Drug Policy Reform: A New Approach to Decriminalization (2016)



Questions? Feedback? Get in touch! 
Janet Madsen, Capacity Building and Knowledge Translation Coordinator,
[email protected]