The purpose of the pan-Canadian and CIHR-funded Emerging Health Threat (EHT) research project is to provide additional evidence and develop guidelines for the treatment of opioid-related disorders in youth (ages 15-25) and to promote prevention and early intervention with newer users and youth at-risk of opioid use.
Canada is currently experiencing an emerging opioid crisis caused by the increased use of opioid drugs and opioid drugs delivered illegally. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there were 3,987 apparent deaths related to opioids in 2017, which corresponds to a mortality rate of 10.9 per 100,000 population. Of these deaths,2% were under 29 years old.
Over the past decade, the age group with the fastest rate of hospitalization due to opioid poisoning was 15-24 years. In addition, between 2010 and 2011 and 2014 and 2015, rates of ED visits due to opioid intoxication more than doubled among youths aged 15 to 24.
EHT is a multi-method research project. In order to understand the current intervention and prevention landscape and literature, researchers will undertake a scoping review of the scientific, clinical and psychosocial literatures on interventions for youth who are at-risk of opioid use. The scoping review of the literature will form the basis of the following dimensions of the project:
Each node across Canada will undertake focus groups with different segments of youth from the Canadian population. In Montreal, the focus groups are with adolescents who have experimented or used opioids at least once in their lifetimes and also with a diverse group of pediatric patients who have been prescribed opioids for pain and pain management.
In addition to the focus groups and scoping literature review, the EHT team is performing a Canada-wide survey of services providers about the current services available to youth who are at-risk and to understand the characteristics of the current treatments and intervention/prevention initiatives already in place.
The EHT team is organizing a cross-Canada youth summit to take place in the Fall of 2019, which will bring together experts and youth to share the results from the aforementioned research activities, to develop sample interventions, a list of guiding principles and philosophies for interventions and preventative initiatives, and to identify actionable levers of change in order to implement youth-driven and informed services.