Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Problem of Pain & the Opioid Crisis

The provincial government and the regulatory body that governs physicians have lately tried to reduce the imprudent prescribing of opioids such as oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl. (Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS)


When I heard about the results of a report on prescription opioid use in Ontario, just one province in Canada, I couldn't comprehend the figures for a moment. I went online to get more information and this is what I found:

TORONTO, ON – May 17, 2017 - People in Ontario filled more than 9 million prescriptions for opioids in 2015/16, up by nearly 450,000 prescriptions from three years earlier, and the opioids being prescribed have shifted toward stronger types like hydromorphone and away from weaker opioids like codeine, a new report has found. 

According to 9 Million Opioid Prescriptions, a report by Health Quality Ontario, nearly two million people in Ontario fill prescriptions for opioids every year -- translating into one in every seven Ontarians, or 14% of the province’s population.
 


One out of seven Ontarians? Is this not gobsmacking? The researchers aren't speculating about illegal opioid use here. These are prescriptions filled by physicians to alleviate pain, although we know that a significant number  prescriptions are used to satisfy addictions or for illegal resale.

Of course there are many people in chronic pain for whom opioids are life-changers. We'd probably agree that they should not suffer.  Yet we have to wonder why the use of opioids is on the rise when we know the danger they pose. It seems to me that there a lot of us are a mess, physically, and drugs have become the solution. I have to wonder if our inattention to our physical and spiritual wellbeing in a fast-paced society has led to a pharmaceutical fix which is dangerous, costly, and masks root causes. Who is paying attention to those who are suffering? What other solutions are there?

I'm curious to know what your reaction has been to this report. Do you find this as unsettling as I do?

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