By REBECCA SOARES
The opioid addiction crisis is an epidemic striking not only the United States but also Canada. When a crisis hits, U.S. authorities take measures to combat it, but this is not the case in Canada. While the opioid addiction problem continues to grow, doctors in this country are still prescribing an alarming number of painkillers. According to the health-data company QuintilesIMS, in 2016 there were 19 million prescriptions dispensed by retail pharmacies across Canada. A substantial number of these are opioid prescriptions such as Tylenol with codeine, percocets, etc. While people are going to require narcotic medications for pain management, doctors should think twice before signing off on pain medications that are addictive.
Sama Al-Maliki, a pharmacist in Cambridge, has noticed that doctors prescribe pain medications readily. If a request for a refill gets sent, most doctors sign off on it without much consideration. On top of it, she believes doctors don’t start where they should when prescribing medications.
She said not all doctors, but some “give pain medications to people and that medication isn’t necessarily the lowest strength and they should be doing it gradually and try providing medications for pain that aren’t addicting before giving the patient straight narcotic medications.”
In the 1920s doctors were aware that opioid medications could be a solution to pain, but also realized that they were highly addictive. These doctors tried to avoid prescribing such medications because of their highly addictive nature. But in modern times, opioid addictions aren’t looked at with the same caution. Instead, it is practically the first thing doctors prescribe any time a patient mentions moderate to severe pain.
A patient, who did not want his name used, is currently in the methadone treatment program in Kitchener and is there due to an addiction to pain medications. “I got addicted to pain medications because I was made aware of a pain medication you can buy over the counter at pharmacies. The doctor told me about Tylenol 1 with codeine which helps for pain and from there I just kept using it to treat my pain and I ended up becoming reliant and addicted to medications.”
Nowadays, almost everyone has a pain medication in their cabinets, which says something about how medication is prescribed in this country.
The opioid crisis is rapidly spreading and if it doesn’t get addressed soon, it’ll only get worse.