Painkillers Linked to More Deaths in Canada

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New study concludes that narcotic prescription medicines are fatal when mixed with alcohol or sedatives, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

Moreover, prescription painkillers, opioids, have been linked with more deaths due to misuse or abuse. The number of deaths associated with opioids in Canada has nearly doubled in the last 13 years, according to the study released Monday December 7, 2009.

Researchers called opioids “Canada’s hidden drug problem”, killing more that heroin overdoses. In Ontario alone, opioid-related deaths nearly doubled from 1991 to 2004, due largely to the increasing popularity of these prescription drugs.

Prescriptions in Ontario increased by a shockingly 850% between 1991 and 2007, directly correlated, researchers say, to the introduction of oxycodone to the Canadian market.

Increases in prescription drug abuse and addiction in Canada has been a hot topic for a number of months, including its rise in popularity among teens. Currently, Canada ranks among the world’s heaviest consumers of prescription drugs—the fourth highest per capita use according to a 2002 Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) report.

What is new, and alarming, is the sharp rise in opiod-related deaths over the last 15 years.

When the drug was released in Canada in the late 1990s, opioid-related deaths shot up by 40 percent. Oxycodone-related deaths have, over the years, increased fivefold to 103 people in 2003 in Ontario, compared to 16 in 1999. In the last year of the study, opioids were responsible for 300 deaths in Ontario.

There seems to be a common misconception of the drug’s safety since a licensed, trusted physician has prescribed them.

Researchers are alarmed, calling opioid-related deaths a “major public health issue”. They point to the growing trend among physicians to prescribe narcotic painkillers, over other effective pain-relievers on the market.

Oxycodone, for example, was originally prescribed for pain management among terminal cancer patients and other severe cases of chronic pain. Today, doctors write prescriptions for the narcotic for anything from back pain to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The medical community is seemingly unaware of the health risks, and researchers aren’t entirely clear whether both doctors and patients fully understand or are fully aware of the serious side effects—including the high risk of death.

There appears to be a wide public misconception that street or illicit drug abuse is a more prevalent problem. However, in reality, prescription drug addiction is a much bigger problem, and can often be left untreated.

Opioid addiction is a serious grave problem. Not only can their misuse or abuse lead to death, but they are also highly addictive. Treatment for an opioid addiction often requires methadone therapy along side a drug addiction treatment program that focuses on psychotherapy.

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Source: The Montreal Gazette

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Sobriety Foundation

Painkillers Linked to More Deaths in Canada

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