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Canadians are dying and it is shocking people across the country. In 2016 hundreds of Canadians died of accidental overdose and people are deeply disturbed by the escalating numbers. Find out why people are calling opioid overdoses the "greatest public-health crisis we face in Canada" and why we should start talking about the dangers of painkillers and drug abuse.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are painkillers that produce morphine-like effects. These drugs are prescribed for medical use but are generally reserved for moderate to severe pain relief. These are a few common opioids and their generic names:

•  Codeine
•  Vicodin, Hycodan (hydrocodone)
•  MS Contin Kadian (morphine)
•  Oxycontin, Percoset (oxycodone)
•  Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
•  Duragesic (fentanyl)

The Facts About Opioids in Canada

•  Ontario has seen 2,471 opioid-related overdoses between 2011-2014
•  Oxycodone overdose deaths decreased by 30%, while overall opioid fatalities increased by 24%
•  Between 2010-2013, OxyContin prescriptions fell 44%, Hydromorphone increased by 56%, Fentanyl by nearly 15%
•  In a 2012 survey, 410,000 Canadians reported abusing prescription drugs like opioid pain relievers

Opioid Addiction

Opioids produce a sense of well-being or euphoria that can be addictive to some people. Addiction facilities are also seeing an increase in patients seeking treatment for opioid abuse. “About 20 to 30 per cent of our opioid addicts coming in are addicted to a prescription they received in the medical field,” said Joshua Montgomery, Director of Nursing and Admissions at Bellwood Health Services.

The Dangers of Painkillers

We need to start talking about the dangers of painkillers. We trust medical professionals and doctors to recommend and prescribe medication that will be safe and effective. Chris Fagan is a recovered Fentanyl addict.

“I got to the maximum that my doctor was going to prescribe to me,” he said. “My pain levels never got worse, but my addictions to opioids did, so I had to self-medicate myself to keep with the withdrawals.” His doctor prescribed him the painkiller to manage his migraines following a 2007 car accident. “I assumed by him giving me the drug, it was okay,” Fagan said.

What can we do to help?

Generally, opioid prescriptions are recommended for moderate to severe pain. If possible, speak to your doctor or medical professional about natural alternatives or lower doses of painkillers. Although painkillers are commonly prescribed they are also highly addictive. Do your research on the medication you are prescribed. Try natural alternatives for pain such as massage therapy, chiropractic therapy, or TENS therapy.

References:

Addiction and Recovery (2016). Opioids (Narcotics): Addiction, Withdrawal and Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/opiates-narcotics-recovery.htm

Amin, F (2016). Opioid overdose deaths continue to rise in Canada despite removal of OxyContin. Citynews. Retrieved from http://www.citynews.ca/2016/03/07/opioid-overdose-deaths-continue-to-rise-in-canada-despite-removal-of-oxycontin/

Phillpott, J (2017). We must turn the tide on Canada’s opioid crisis. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/turning-the-tide-on-canadas-opioid-crisis/article33624256/

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