March 21, 2017, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
There has been a great deal of news coverage lately about the scourge of opioid abuse in Canada. This is rightfully a huge concern, but some of the actions being taken in this new war on addiction are hurting people who have a demonstrated legitimate need for extremely strong pain relief measures. In some cases of long term, chronic, acute, or extreme pain opioids can help patients make it through the day. For some people the reality is that without the extremely potent painkillers life becomes unbearable.
New provincial regulations restrict access of high dose prescription opioids to people on ODP, and many worry that this may cause really suffering for people who are already ‘on the edge’. The media has tended to focus on drug seekers, and people who are obtaining their drugs illegally. It has not focussed on the needs of Ontario residents for whom restricting the access to pain medications will cause real harm as well.
People who use ODP (Ontario Drug Plan) include seniors, low income people, and those on disability pension. Patient advocates say that the changes may well hurt those with chronic pain and who use opioids to manage that pain. Many degenerative conditions like spinal stenosis, degenerating discs, deteriorating hips and knees, can cause intense pain that is not responsive to other therapies like nerve blocks and steroid injections. Car acident and workplace accident victims with traumatic injuries are another group of people who iften require extremly strong pain medications. For those patients, there is little other hope than strong opioid medications.
Others argue that the benefits of opioid use are less than we believe and that the patients become addicted to the medications regardless if they take them for need or for stimulation.
There is little question that there are many addicts who were introduced to opioid highs when they were injured in some way, and who could not stop taking them once they healed. There are many though who take their pain medications only as required.
When making the decisions around pain relief, and the abuse of pain killers like opioids in ONtario we must have reagrd for people who are dependant upon them for their day to day living.
According to the Canadian Guidelines for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids for Chronic Non-cancer Pain,
“Opioids are effective, and people with pain have the right to be treated with them, says Dr. Andrea Furlan, an IWH associate scientist who led a systematic research review, which underpins the guideline’s 24 recommendations.
But opioid use does present risks and potential harms, so prescribers and dispensers have to prevent these as much as they can
It also states that
"Opioids should only be prescribed after other treatment options have been tried and failed. The guideline also notes that medication alone is often not enough to manage pain, and other effective approaches should be considered as well. "