News / Halifax

'Bigger picture' needed to focus on all opioids, not just fentanyl: advocate

Advocate who lost brother to accidental overdose in 2011 says focus on fentanyl detracts from larger issue of opioid epidemic.

Fentanyl pills are seen in this file photo.

The Canadian Press

Fentanyl pills are seen in this file photo.

The president of Get Prescription Drugs Off the Street Society is concerned the attention given to illicit fentanyl is detracting from the real issue of opioids.

“I think it’s important for people to see the bigger picture and not strictly focus on one drug…It’s an opioid epidemic, not just a fentanyl epidemic, and organized crime just decided to supplement it with fentanyl and that could change at any moment,” Amy Graves said in an interview Tuesday.

Her brother Josh died from an accidental overdose of hydromorphone in the Annapolis Valley in 2011.

“All these restrictions being put on fentanyl? I’m sure they’ll just come out with the next thing until we truly deal with these drugs,” she said.

“The urgency at this point needs to be on access to treatment, access to harm reduction.”

Since her brother’s death, Graves has made it her mission to promote awareness about the dangers of prescription drug use.

“I’m almost feeling defeated and overwhelmed that after advocating for over six years now…that it has to come to this point for a real sense of urgency or alarms to be raised,” Graves said in an interview.

“It took organized crime to manufacture their own product and come into the market for people to really pay attention and notice the gravity of the situation. It’s shocking and it’s disheartening.”

Graves said she wants the province to take action on the opioid epidemic and not just focus on fentanyl.

“There’s all this sense of urgency, and government and stakeholders acting like they’re being preventative or they’re trying to get ahead of something that’s already been here for a decade, just because it’s a different formulation,” she said.

“The danger did not come into play when organized crime started to manufacture it. The danger was already there…Opioids are not always safe as prescribed whether it comes from a drug dealer or a doctor."

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