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Ottawa calls for proposals to improve prescribing of opioids, other abused drugs

Prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone is pictured in a June 20, 2012 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

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Prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone is pictured in a June 20, 2012 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

TORONTO - Ottawa has issued a national call for proposals to improve prescribing practices for opioids and other drugs that pose a high risk of abuse or addiction.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose says her department has earmarked $3.6 million to develop evidence-based practices for appropriate prescribing of the most commonly abused drugs: opioids, stimulants, sedatives and tranquillizers.

Prescription drugs are now the third most commonly abused substance among Canadian youth, after alcohol and marijuana.

A 2012 alcohol and drug use survey showed opioids are among the most commonly used prescription drugs, and almost one in six Canadians aged 15 and older reported having used the narcotic pain relievers in the previous 12 months.

Ambrose co-hosted a Toronto symposium earlier this year attended by doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement officials, addictions specialists and First Nations to discuss prescription drug abuse.

Last month, the health minister announced a proposal to regulate tamper-resistant properties for prescription drugs that are at a high risk of abuse, including controlled-release oxycodone.

"I recently announced that I am pursuing tamper-resistant properties in prescription drugs, so they are less likely to be crushed and snorted or injected as a way to help curb prescription drug abuse," Ambrose said in a statement Friday.

"However, tamper-resistance is just one piece of the puzzle. Curbing prescription drug abuse is also about education. It's about working with the prescribers around challenging issues like 'doctor shopping' and over-prescribing."

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