Ontario To Monitor Prescription Drugs


THUNDER BAY – Ever notice that the only solutions to any problem, for most politicians, are found only by enacting new laws? Sadly, that is likely because so many politicians are lawyers.

It is almost as if they see the world through “law coloured glasses”.

If everything could be solved by enacting laws, the world would be an amazing place. We live in a society that has so many laws now that it is increasingly hard to figure out which one someone might be breaking.

For too many lawyers their solutions seem to always be more laws. One might figure that a hammer if it could see would only see nails?

“Ontario leads Canada in narcotics abuse”. That was the admission from the Minister of Health, it means the McGuinty Government has finally admitted this problem.

So, the solution that former lawyer Dalton McGuinty offers are more laws.

Let alone that in most cases there are already laws that cover the very problems that the Liberals now seek to enact new legislation to cover.

In Ontario, Deb Matthews, the Minister for Health and Long Term Care stated this week, “We know that there is a serious narcotics abuse issue facing many Ontarians and their families throughout our province. We are taking a range of steps that reflect the severity of the issue.”

After seven years in office, the McGuinty Liberals are setting out to try to solve the problem. Why it has taken that long is a question all Ontarians should be asking.

The first logical step would be asking what laws are already in place to combat the problem? And then seeking to see if there are things which can be done under those laws that would make a difference.

The fact of the matter is those laws are already in place, it is illegal to possess, sell, or use illegal drugs.

The Government says, “As part of a new Narcotics Strategy, the province would track prescriptions through a new database that would flag unusual patterns of prescribing and dispensing. In instances of inappropriate activity, responses could include educational support and resources, reporting to the appropriate regulatory college and in extreme circumstances, law enforcement. In addition, the strategy would include more education to patients about the appropriate use of prescription narcotics”.

Heck the E-Health mess has only cost Ontario a billion dollars. About the same cost as the federal Liberals wasted on their gun registry scheme. One might think that by now governments would have tired of having their fingers burnt playing at this game of designing new databases and electronic registries.

Finding solutions should not entail more laws and take at least a year before they can be enacted.

First the McGuinty Government could seek to enact stronger sentences for those who are engaged in the selling and distribution of illegal drugs. All that would take is the government to make it policy that the maximum sentences be sought by the Crown.

Second, the problem can be attacked by education. Taking the issue into the schools and teaching the impact of drugs and drug use would be a great start.

For a really radical solution, perhaps one could be enacting mandatory and random drug testing for individuals on social assistance? That of course would likely draw fire from rights groups, who would claim that such a program would infringe on the rights of those on social assistance.

That there are many workers in the province who face mandatory drug testing as a means of keeping their jobs, extending it into a more public sector area shouldn’t be that big a stretch.

Perhaps as a means of showing leadership, the Premier and his cabinet could participate? That approach has been offered by the Grand Chief of NAN, Stan Beardy to demonstrate leadership on the campaign against drugs.

There are other more radical, at least by Canadian standards, solutions being tried in other countries. In Spain the sentences for the drug users have been drastically reduced, and users are being encouraged into treatment programs.

At the same time penalties for drug pushers have been increased. That approach appears to be working. Ontario however appears not to be headed toward that kind of solution.

The Spanish approach seems to be working.

For Thunder Bay, along with many parts of Ontario where there is already a noted shortage of treatment facilities, the success of such a program would likely be severely limited.

The real problem that the McGuinty Liberals face is that despite all their words about revitalizing healthcare, in the area of treatment beds and facilities for those struggling with drug problems, there is a massive shortfall.

The drugs targeted for the monitoring program by Ontario are oxycodone, morphine, codeine, Ritalin, Valium and phenobarbital.

Part of the problem is that as prescription drugs, the doctors who prescribe them likely need to be monitored. In some cases, sources inform NetNewsledger.com that some doctors are prescribing six months to a year for some of the prescription drugs that are commonly abused.

That allows for abuse of the system when a parent is faced with the street price of up to $15 per tablet for drugs like Ritalin. Consider that a six month supply can represent a street price of $5400, and the pressure to sell the prescription is a powerful one.

The McGuinty Government is right to recognise the problem.

That it took this long to realize the serious nature of the problem means that their solution is likely to be left to be implemented by the next Ontario Government.

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