• Narcotic abuse is a type of substance abuse. Substance
abuse can be defined as, “an abnormal pattern of substance
usage leading to significant distress or impairment,”
• The medical definition of a narcotic is:
A drug derived from opium or opium-like compounds, with potent
analgesic effects associated with significant alteration of mood and
behavior, and with the potential for dependence and tolerance
following repeated administration. (TheFreeDictionary.com, 2013)
• Narcotics are classified under the Controlled Drug and
Substances Act (CDSA), which classifies narcotics as having
high misuse potential (Lilley, Harrington, & Snyder, 2007,
• Narcotic abuse can create both physical and psychological
dependences. A physical dependence is reflected by
tolerance to the effects of a substance and withdrawal
symptoms when the substance is terminated. Psychological
dependence refers to behaviours related to obtaining and
using a substance. (Lilley, Harrington, & Snyder, 2007, p.867)
• Health Canada regards substance abuse as a serious health issue
resulting in economic, social, and public safety consequences for
• In Canada, heroin remains the most misused drug after marijuana, with
heroin addiction afflicting an estimated 60 000 to 90 000 Canadians.
• Canada has now surpassed the United States as being the TOP
CONSUMER of opioids in the world. (Paperny, A., 2013)
• Heroin was banned in 1908 due to its abuse potential, and several
synthetic opioids have followed in its wake. This has led to much
concern about overprescription.
(Lilley, Harrington, & Snyder, 2007, p.87)
• The result of opioid abuse is brief intense euphoria,
followed by a few hours of a relaxed state. This causes the
user to “chase the high”
• OxyContin, a synthetic opioid, has now been banned in
Canada and has been replaced by OxyNEO, a version with
less abuse potential. Since OxyContin has been
discontinued, restrictions on coverage for OxyNEO have
also been put into place.
• There is great concern regarding addicts, and those in
remote and/or First Nations’ communities, seeking stronger
substances (i.e. Fentanyl).
(Kirkey, S., 2012)
• Of all addictions, prescription drug abuse is perhaps the most
insidious. It is often taken innocently for pain relief, and without
extreme caution, can turn into addiction.
• Prescription drug abuse, more than street drugs, transcends
social class and occupations.
• When in search of the drug, people who have never been in
trouble with the law previously may be involved in criminal
• Or worse, their drug abuse, even experimenting, can be lethal.
• Global news reported on the increase of Fentanyl abuse
since the ban of OxyContin, and its effect on Canadian
• Narcotic abuse can be explained by several sociological
theories, including conflict theory, Marxist conflict theory,
Symbolic Interactionist, and Structural-Functionalism
• Narcotic abuse can be explained by conflict theory in that:
…the heavy, chronic abuse of crack and addiction to heroin are
strongly related to social class, income, power, and locale. A
signiﬁcantly higher proportion of lower- and working-class inner-city
residents abuse hard drugs than is true of more afﬂuent members of
society. (McGraw-Hill.com, 2013)
From this perspective, the more affluent members of society may view
those abusing drugs as people who don’t want to contribute positively
to society, and are therefore “in conflict”
• Marxist Conflict Theory recognizes that many social problems arise out
of poverty (Mooney, L.A. et. al., 2013, p.13). This is often the case with
substance abuse as it often occurs more frequently among the
impoverished as a means of coping. However, narcotic abuse appears
to transcend class boundaries. (McGraw-Hill.com, 2013)
• Symbolic Interactionism also explains narcotic abuse in that the
behaviour may be perpetuated in those who believe there is nothing
better for them to do and/or grow up in an environment in which
substances are depended upon.
• Lastly, Structural-Functionalism would recognize narcotic abuse as a
social problem which causes dysfunction in society (i.e. break-andenters, sudden death, heartache for parents and families)
(Mooney, L.A., et.al, 2013, pp. 11-15)
• One solution to the increasing abuse of narcotics is to lift the ban
on OxyContin. This would, in theory, deter people from going
after Fentanyl patches in which the delivered dose is unable to be
ascertained. (Goodman, 2013)
• Another solution is to increase access to methadone to assist
addicts in staying clean.
• Many family members of those who have died from narcotic
abuse are going public with their stories to prevent further
fatalities. (Gallant, 2013)
• The amount of narcotics that are prescribed by each physician is
already monitored by Health Canada. (Ontario Ministry of Health
and Long-Term Care, 2013).
Gallant, J. (2013 August 01). Fentanyl use by opioid addicts on the rise. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from,
Goodman, L. (2013 November 27). Health Canada approves addictive form of oxycodone as U.S. urges ban. The
Globe and Mail. Retrieved from, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-andfitness/health/health-canada-approves-addictive-form-of-oxycodone-as-us-urgesban/article15640088/
Kirkey, S. (2012 March 1). OxyContin's removal could cause whole new set of problems. Retrieved from
Lilley, L.L., Harrington, S., & Snyder, J.S. (2007). Pharmacology and the nursing process in Canada (1st Canadian
ed.). Toronto, ON: Elsevier Canada
McGraw-Hill.com. (2013). Theories of addiction. Retrieved from http://highered.mcgrawhill.com/sites/dl/free/0073401498/506358/Goode7_Sample_ch03.pdf
Mooney, L.A., Holmes, M., Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2013). Understanding social problems (custom ed.).
Toronto, ON: Nelson Education Ltd.
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2013). Ontario’s Narcotics Strategy. Retrieved from
Paperny, A. (2013 March 26). Canada’s the world capital of potent opioids, and that makes its neighbour nervous.
Global News. Retrieved from http://globalnews.ca/news/406828/canadas-the-world-capital-of-potentopioids-and-that-makes-its-neighbour-nervous/
TheFreeDictionary.com. (2013). Retrieved from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/
Youtube. (2013 January 28). Clear Addiction: New opiate patch could lead to abuse. Global News. Retrieved