‘Canada needs a bet­ter ap­proach’

Health groups want al­ter­na­tives to opi­oids

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE -

CAL­GARY An in­terim re­port re­leased at a pain man­age­ment con­fer­ence sug­gests the best way to cut down on opioid ad­dic­tion is to not pre­scribe the drugs in the first place.

Michael Heit­shu, chair­man of the Coali­tion for Safe and Ef­fec­tive Pain Man­age­ment, says a lack of af­ford­able al­ter­na­tives for pain re­lief in Canada is partly be­hind an over­re­liance on opi­oids and ris­ing ad­dic­tion rates.

“Canada is the sec­ondlead­ing con­sumer of opi­oids in the world and it doesn’t have to be. What the coali­tion is do­ing is look­ing ... at why opi­oids are be­ing pre­scribed and what could be done to re­duce the preva­lence of opioid pre­scrib­ing,” Heit­shu said Mon­day in Cal­gary.

“Given the hu­man and fi­nan­cial costs of the opioid cri­sis, Canada needs a bet­ter ap­proach to pain man­age­ment.”

Heit­shu said over 19 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions were writ­ten for opi­oids in Canada last year.

A fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­port said there were 2,458 ap­par­ent opioid-re­lated deaths in the coun­try in 2016 — a rate of 8.8 per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion. The num­bers were worse in Western Canada with ap­par­ent opioid-re­lated death rates of more than 10 per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion for Yukon, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, Bri­tish Columbia and Al­berta.

“The strong growth of opioid pre­scrib­ing in Canada has been for quite com­mon pain con­di­tions like back pain, arthri­tis and chronic pain. These are ac­tu­ally con­di­tions where opi­oids aren’t that ef­fec­tive and where the risks are tremen­dous,” Heit­shu said.

“A sur­pris­ingly high pro­por­tion of peo­ple who end up in trouble start with a le­git­i­mate pre­scrip­tion and fol­low­ing their doc­tors or­ders. We now know that the risk of de­pen­dency can start three to five days af­ter opi­oids are first pre­scribed.”

“Canada is the sec­ond-lead­ing con­sumer of opi­oids in the world and it doesn’t have to be.” – Michael Heit­shu, chair­man of

the Coali­tion for Safe and Ef­fec­tive Pain Man­age­ment

The re­port sug­gests doc­tors rec­om­mend al­ter­na­tive ther­a­pies such as psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ments, physio and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, and chi­ro­prac­tic care.

The 10-mem­ber coali­tion in­cludes the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Oc­cu­pa­tional Ther­a­pists, Cana­dian Cen­tre on Sub­stance Use and Ad­dic­tion, Cana­dian Chi­ro­prac­tic As­so­ci­a­tion, Cana­dian Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion, the Cana­dian Phys­io­ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion and Cana­dian Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We would also like to see bet­ter col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween pa­tients and front-line health providers when mak­ing de­ci­sions about how to safely man­age their pain. It is im­por­tant that Cana­di­ans know that these al­ter­na­tives ex­ist and are ask­ing im­por­tant ques­tions,” said Chris Power from the Cana­dian Pa­tient Safety In­sti­tute.

Heit­shu said it’s time for doc­tors to put down their pre­scrip­tion pads when it comes to opi­oids ex­cept as a last re­sort.

The study rec­om­mends provin­cial and fed­eral govern­ments con­sider adding al­ter­na­tive medicine to pub­lic health-care cov­er­age.

A fi­nal re­port from the coali­tion is ex­pected next year.

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