According to the city of Toronto, in 2017 there was a total of 303 overdoses related to opioids, a 63 per cent increase from the previous year.

The recent Opioid Awareness survey, conducted by Statistics Canada found that 29 per cent of Canadians aged 18 years and older have used a form of opioids such as Tylenol No. 3, within the past five years.

Retired police officer and now program head of justice studies at the University of Guelph-Humber, Dr. Gary Ellis describes the opioid crisis to be a North American wide phenomenon.

“People are dying, lots of people are dying,” Ellis said, “Specifically around an [opioid] called fentanyl.” He described this opioid as being a highly toxic drug as many people using the drug are not aware of potential lacing of other substances.

According to Ellis, these drugs are easily accessible through the open market and people are often using the method of injection which risks the passing different diseases.

Ellis said the city of Toronto could help to minimize the crisis by working together with different levels of government.

Registered psychotherapist and sessional faculty at the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College, Professor Maya Obadia said, “[opioids] is a biochemical addiction, it’s not only a behavioural addiction.”

Obadia said opioids have a larger effect on the developing brains of teenagers than on adults. “The brain develops up until the age of 25, when young adults or teenagers use opioids, it’s more dangerous,” Obadia said.

Obadia believed there are ways to enable harm reduction plans to reduce opioid use and prevent overdoses. Some of the preventative measures she described are, naloxone kits which reverse the effects of opioid overdoses and public health campaigns urging the public to not do drugs alone.

Associate director of student wellness and development, Jacqueline Anderson said, “[Humber college] works from a harm reduction lens.”

Anderson said that the college is prepared in the instance of an opioid overdose on campus with naloxone kits at the ready at the health centre.

According to Anderson, there are counsellors and physicians on campus and the school is connected to other services in the community. These services are able to make referrals to, to provide assistance to students.

“Our goal is to also help students walk across the stage at the end of their educational journey with us, we really want to be there to catch students when they need our help,” she said.