The impact of drug policy on our communities

From the opioid crisis to the impending legalization of marijuana, drug policy has big health implications.

Shelby Soke - 01 June 2017

Drug-related stories have been dominating the news these days. Alberta just announced a $30-million budget bump to tackle the fentanyl problem. Drugs can be a polarizing topic, but two University of Alberta experts are helping to set the facts straight.

When it comes to the current fentanyl crisis Hakique Virani, a leading public health and preventive medicine specialist at the University of Alberta, believes that the drug war mentality needs to change before things can get better.

Virani considers that failed drug policies have contributed to the worst drug safety crisis in history, and the harms escalate the longer these policies persist. Virani questions, if this is a war, who are the combatants? Whose side are we on? And how do we know who wins?

Decriminalizing drug use is critical to solving the opioid crisis, according to Virani. In the meantime, health care professionals must play a role in protecting the most vulnerable.

"We need to get over our discomfort with drug use and decriminalize substances to ensure a safer supply for those who wish to use," contended Virani, assistant clinical professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

A consideration when it comes to the legalization of drugs, especially with the impending legalization of marijuana, is the impact on safety when at work or behind the wheel.

Sebastian Straube, U of A associate professor and the director of the Division of Preventive Medicine, believes it's important to consider the impact of opioids and marijuana on work, specifically safety-sensitive work.

It's been shown that opioid and marijuana use can increase the risk of road traffic accidents, which can serve as a proxy for safety-sensitive work, but some key research questions in this area are unanswered.

Both Straube and Virani will be at the Festival of Health sharing their insights on these important issues.

Learn more about this topic at the Festival of Health

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ECHA 2-490 1 - 5 p.m.

Edmonton Clinic Health Academy,

North Campus, University of Alberta

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