Canada’s opioid crisis persists despite the efforts by governments and individuals. While some governments’ approaches include harm reduction, society’s principal tool remains criminalizing people who use these substances. It has been — and remains — unsuccessful.

We need an alternative public health approach. It is starting to emerge, evidenced by recent amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and  harm reduction being reintroduced in the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy. A successful public health approach requires a fundamental change in how we view people who use drugs. Our current perspective must be replaced with compassion.

Front-line workers are already showing that compassion, and some government officials are seeing the light. However, too many are unwilling to admit that the “war on drugs” has failed, and likely produced this crisis. If we care about tackling addiction, we need to reflect and adjust our own attitudes.