The US and Canada are the world’s first and second-largest consumers of opioids per capita. And while both would love to relinquish their titles, it gets worse: Thanks to the explosion in fentanyl use in recent years, overdose deaths – as little as 2mg can be fatal – have skyrocketed.
The epidemic stems from big pharma’s false claims that opioid pain relievers were not addictive, which led to their widespread distribution. It’s also led to plenty of legal wrangling. Just this week, the Sackler family, whose pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, has been at the heart of the crisis, was granted immunity from civil legal claims in the US in exchange for $6 billion to be paid to help combat the opioid epidemic.
We take a look at the toll opioids have taken in the US and Canada over the past six years (Note: 2022 Canadian figures are incomplete).