Resource: Trauma Informed Practice & the Opioid Crisis, A Discussion Guide for Health Care and Social Service Providers

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Canada is in the midst of a serious and growing opioid crisis. Nearly 30% of Canadians report using some form of opioids, such as oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl in the past five years and 1 in 8 Canadians (nearly 3.5 million) say they have a close friend or family member who has become dependent on opioids. Not only do many health care and social service providers have a personal connection to the opioid crisis, many are increasingly aware of the impact of prescription and illicit opioids on the populations they work with and on our systems of care.

For example:

Opioid Poisoning and Overdose Deaths: In 2017, more than 1,400 people (almost 4 per day) in British Columbia died from illicit drug overdoses — a 43% increase from 2016. In 81% of those deaths, fentanyl was detected, and men accounted for 80% of the deaths.

Hospitalization: Opioid poisonings result in an average of 16 hospitalizations a day in Canada. Seniors account for nearly 25% of hospitalizations.

Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal/Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: An increasing number of women are struggling with opioid use and misuse before and during pregnancy. Between April 2016 and March 31, 2017, 1,846 babies in Canada received treatment for opioid withdrawal following birth.

This resource focuses on addressing one facet of the opioid crisis in Canada. Research has shown that the vast majority of individuals who struggle with opioid misuse and addiction have current or past experiences of trauma and violence. Those experiences of trauma and violence are often gendered, in that women, men, trans and gender diverse people have different kinds of experiences.

Trauma-informed practice is an approach to care that integrates an understanding of trauma into all levels of care, system engagement, workforce development, organizational policy and cross-sectoral collaborations.

This resource builds upon the Trauma Informed Practice Guide ( by BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services in 2013, which have been adopted and implemented in many health authorities and other jurisdictions across the province.

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