Canada’s Opioid Addiction | Tomorrow’s World — March/April 2024

Canada’s Opioid Addiction

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What will be the physical, economic, and spiritual damage of Canada’s worsening opioid crisis? Can people enslaved to drug addiction ever be free?

A country needs an abundance of tradeable resources or commodities in order to become an exporter nation. When we think of Canadian exports, we often think of oil, auto-manufacturing, fertilizers, wheat, and hockey players—things Canada has a natural abundance of or has the ability to produce in large quantities. Mathieu Bertrand, RCMP chief superintendent of Serious and Organized Crime and Border Integrity, stated in an interview with the CBC, “Sadly, Canada is a producing country of fentanyl and synthetic opioids. Not only are we a producing country, we’re an exporting country” (“Canadian-made fentanyl is an international problem,”, November 18, 2023). Canada’s opioid exports are known to be reaching Australia and New Zealand. Several drug busts in and near Toronto and Vancouver have resulted in the discovery of what are being called “super labs”—illicit manufacturing facilities capable of processing millions of doses of fentanyl.

A recent Washington Post article highlights the specific threat posed by these facilities: “The super labs that police are finding in Canada differ [from those found in Mexico] because they are synthesizing the drug—not merely pressing pills—using precursor chemicals” (“Fentanyl super labs in Canada pose new threat for U.S. opioid epidemic,”, December 24, 2023).

Though Canada’s economy has been struggling, it still boasts the ninth- or tenth-highest GDP in the world as only the thirty-eighth most populous nation. Historically, Canada has taken pride in using its wealth for the benefit of its own population as well as to aid other nations. Today, we find this opioid crisis as another example of modern Canada’s determination to lead the way in moral decline.

Grim Statistics

Home-grown production is also ensuring an ample supply of drugs for domestic users. In 2016, Canada announced a new strategy to combat the increasing prevalence of drug use. Rather than simply focusing on prevention, a new focus was introduced—“harm reduction.” Billions of dollars have been spent to provide safe injection sites, free needles, stronger support services for mental health issues, and many other efforts to reduce the harm caused by dangerous drug use. Nevertheless, since that time, more than 30,000 Canadians have died as a result of opioid overdose. In 2022, an average of 20 Canadians died every day from this preventable ailment.

Mark Haden, a professor at the University of British Columbia described the shortcomings of the current program: “If your success is measured by overdose deaths, we still have a complete disaster on our hands” (“Adding up the billions of government dollars directed at Canada’s opioid crisis,”, May 30, 2023).

In 1987, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took a cue from the United States to pursue a “war on drugs.” More than 35 years later, no solution has been found to stem the crisis of Canadians becoming addicted to deadly opioids. Why is it that no solution can be found?

The Bondage of Addiction

You likely remember the slogan, “Just say no to drugs.” It seems simple enough. The message that drugs are destructive is one that most would agree with. Few would argue against the reality that opioid use has terrifying consequences, yet demand for the product continues to grow. A paper by the Mayo Clinic describes addiction and how self-destructive behaviour becomes powerfully compulsive for someone caught in the grasp of drugs:

Addiction is a condition where something that started as pleasurable now feels like something you can’t live without. Drug addiction is defined as an out-of-control feeling that you must use a medicine or drug and continue to use it even though it causes harm over and over again. Opioids are highly addictive, largely because they trigger powerful reward centers in your brain…. When an opioid dose wears off, you may find yourself wanting those good feelings back as soon as possible (“How opioid use disorder occurs,”

When watching interviews or speaking with someone caught in the grip of addiction, it is not difficult to realize that addiction is a form of bondage. What else could make someone huddle outside in a blizzard for a few puffs from a cigarette and a temporary hit of nicotine? Writing to a growing congregation in Rome, the Apostle Paul described human beings as slaves to whatever we choose to obey. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).

Opioids are not the only addiction that plagues mankind. There is no shortage of vices that people know are not good for them in the long term—yet countless millions give themselves over to the control of addictive substances and behaviors, to such a degree that breaking free may require medical help. Addictions, which so often start as avoidable vices, can tragically turn many into their unwilling slaves. When we allow any vice to direct our actions, we are becoming enslaved to it.

That Which Satisfies

The prophet Isaiah was inspired to write an instructive passage regarding true value. The verse is primarily intended to highlight the nation of Israel’s spiritual deficiencies; however, it reveals a powerful principle describing the addict’s physical reality: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2).

Those who suffer from addiction are willing to exhaust their limited resources (money, time, health, relationships) for something that will fail to produce even limited satisfaction in the long run. Recreational drug users may delight in the chemically induced euphoria of getting high, and many individuals have fallen into drug use hoping to escape a life that seems devoid of hope. And Scripture acknowledges that doing the wrong thing can result in momentary pleasure. Moses is described as rejecting “the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). The highs of drug use and any other addiction are just that—passing pleasures. Eventually the effects wear off and users are left with the scars of their decision and a void needing to be filled by the next high.

Addiction is an itch that, when scratched, is only satiated for a moment. As Isaiah was inspired to ask, Why spend on what does not satisfy? The preceding verse reveals what is guaranteed to satisfy: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

God encourages us to discern the comparative value of what we have available and to prioritize what holds long-term value. This means rejecting temporary, sinful pleasures, as Moses did, in favour of the promise of something better. God’s promise is a reward greater than any physical high or passing pleasure we could imagine. He encourages us to come and buy from Him without money. His promise does not come at a cost to our health, and it ultimately results in a life of abundance and an eternal blessing that will not leave us unsatisfied.

If you would like to know more about this promise, about what can truly satisfy, you can request a free copy of What Is the Meaning of Life? right here at Tomorrow’s World, or order it from the Regional Office nearest you.


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