From the Editor: February 2017
Band-aids don’t cut it
By Mari-Len De
Much of the talk around solutions to the country’s growing opioid crisis has been focused on treating overdoses, mainly by increasing the availability of naloxone kits for first responders as a stopgap measure. Some have also suggested pouring more resources into addiction treatment centres to help those with drug dependency problems get better.
While notable, these are band-aid solutions that will do little to ultimately solve and prevent the alarmingly increasing dependence on prescription painkillers. Eradicating this health crisis surely requires a deeper and more comprehensive solution than just a treatment protocol for victims after the fact.
Many of those who have developed opioid and prescription painkiller addiction started out with some form of acute or chronic pain. According to data from The Canadian Pain Society, one in five Canadian adults suffer from chronic pain and is the most common reason for seeking health care. Up to 78 per cent of emergency room visits present with pain complaints.
People living with chronic pain report their condition significantly interferes with their day-to-day activities and, ultimately, their quality of life. And yet only less than one per cent of total funding for health research is currently dedicated to pain research.
The desperate quest to find relief from debilitating pain and the unchecked practice of prescribing opioid for non-cancer-related pain have all contributed to what has now become a public health crisis that continues to spread across Canada.
There needs to be a national, more systematic approach to solving the opioid crisis that does not just involve makeshift solutions, but addresses the root of the problem. Yes, we need to improve access to and quality of care at addiction treatment centres, but we also need to increase funding for pain research. We need to equip first responders with better tools to prevent overdose deaths, but we also need to be better at training health care professionals on effective and efficient pain management that does not lead to drug dependence.
The various health care professions need to be better at communicating with one another, consulting, drawing on each other’s skillsets and knowledge, collaborating openly to provide a holistic approach to alleviating their patients’ pain problems.