Purpose of Review
The purpose of this review is to (1) detail the historical context behind the rise of opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid-related harms in the United States (US) and Canada, (2) describe the epidemiology of OUD in these two countries, and (3) discuss current strategies being employed to address this public health emergency in North America.
Opioid-related overdose has become a leading cause of unintentional injury related death in North America. Deaths have risen in parallel with opioid prescribing and the rising prevalence of unintentional exposure to highly potent synthetic opioids. At the same time, rates of injection drug use-related infections such as hepatitis C and endocarditis have also increased.
Both Canada and the US have implemented policy changes and interventions at the national and local levels in an attempt to stem rising opioid attributable morbidity and mortality. In many settings, the collective goal has been to increase access to treatment of OUD, expand harm reduction interventions (including improved access to naloxone), and develop and disseminate guidelines on the safe prescribing of opioids for non-cancer pain and the management of OUD.