Chronic pain, which is often described as pain lasting longer than six months, is an incredibly common affliction. Whether caused by congenital illness or as the result of a traumatic accident such as a motor vehicle collision, approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, as do as many as one in five Canadians.

While the impacts of chronic pain are wide-ranging, opioid addiction is becoming an increasingly prevalent side effect. In the past several years, Canada has become “the world’s second-largest per capita consumer of opioids,” according to a recent Globe and Mail article, and a burgeoning centre for addiction.

Until recently, OxyContin – and its reformulated version, OxyNEO – was Canada’s top-selling narcotic. In an effort to reduce opioid addiction, every province except Alberta pulled funding for the drug. However, the provinces failed to impose regulations on similar drugs, and a slew of replacement narcotics have since filled the void.

Fentanyl, a fast-acting narcotic and sedative roughly 100 times more toxic than morphine and heroin, has become perhaps the most widely recognized drug on the market today. Between 2009 and 2014, Fentanyl was linked to more than 650 Canadian deaths, and in 2015, the drug contributed to 274 deaths in Alberta alone.

Though not as deadly as Fentanyl, Hydromorph Contin has become Canada’s most widely prescribed drug. Last year, 1.6 million Hydromorph Contin prescriptions were dispensed, contributing to a record 21.7 million opioid prescriptions issued in the country overall.

Experts believe over-prescribing is significantly contributing to Canada’s opioid addiction problem.

“We need to rein in excessive prescribing,” said Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “When we do that, then we will likely make a dent into this problem. Right now, we’re not.”

The promotion of alternative pain management strategies will be key to limiting opioid prescriptions. While heavy narcotics provide effective temporary pain relief, “there is not high-quality evidence showing that opioids work for long-term pain,” per the Globe. Untreated chronic pain causes “the neurological processes that transmit acute pain messages to the brain” to “create ingrained pathways” which allow nerve endings to continuously fire pain signals, according to an article in Hospital News. This effect causes pain medication to lose its potency over time.

Additionally, opioids only treat the physical impacts of chronic pain, leaving patients to cope with the psychological, social, financial, and spiritual damages on their own.

While proper medication remains necessary to effective pain management, experts are increasingly pushing “self-management” techniques such as yoga, gentle exercise, cognitive-based psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, sleep optimization, and education to help make patients’ lives more manageable.

By emphasizing alternative pain management techniques, patients are not only finding physical relief, but are also avoiding the sometimes deadly risks associated with heavy prescription narcotic use. The unrestrained issuance of prescriptions has led to an emerging opioid addiction crisis in Canada, and the millions of people suffering from chronic pain are on the front lines of the issue.

Whether you are suffering from chronic pain as a result of an injury, or are dealing with the effects of over-prescribed opioid medication, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers can help. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to find out how we can defend your rights.

Greg Neinstein