Sunday, January 27, 2008

Painkiller use stokes death fears

While I agree that work needs to be done to prevent prescription narcotic abuse, I really hope this won't be at the expense of those who genuinely need these medications. I've seen people with abuse problems, but I've also seen a lot of patients who had poorly managed pain control.

From the National Post:
When it comes to consuming prescription opioids, Canadians are world leaders, taking twice as many of the powerful, addictive narcotics as Europeans and 20 times as many as the Japanese.

With some experts afraid the trend could also be exacting a rising death toll, Health Canada is moving to find out how many people succumb to fatal overdoses from the drugs, usually after the pills have ended up on the black market. Evidence from the United States -- one of only two countries that ingest more opioids such as Oxycontin and fentanyl than Canada -- suggests the numbers could be soaring.

Health Canada is hiring outside researchers to come up with a system for tracking the deaths. The results should help decide whether Canadian doctors' propensity for handing out the medicines is justified or not, said one of the addiction scientists commissioned to do the work.

"Part of the assessment of the pluses and minuses is that you have to know how many people die of this," said Dr. Jurgen Rehm, a drug policy expert at Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. "No matter what opinion you have on the burning drug questions of the day, you need those data…. It's irrational not to have them."

One pain specialist, though, warns against using overdose statistics to curb legitimate use of the drugs since, if anything, they are not prescribed widely enough now for Canadians with genuine pain problems. Painkiller use stokes death fears

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