Pubdate: Sat, 02 Sep 2017
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Peterborough Examiner
Page: A4


Drugs that treat pain are both a blessing and a curse. Too often a
prescription that brings relief leads to addiction and an overdose

Those drugs are classed as opioids. Oxycodone (best know under the
brand name OxyContin) and fentanyl get the most attention at the
moment but old standbys like Demerol, Percodan and Percocet are still
in the mix.

A new study of prescription opioid use done by the Ontario Drug Policy
Research Network has found that Peterborough city and county have the
fourth-highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the province.

That report surveyed all 36 Ontario public health units and was
released a week before International Overdose Awareness Day. The
relatively high local rate of overdose deaths and that timing makes it
tempting to focus on preventing such deaths. But that's a complex
undertaking. Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra, Peterborough's medical officer of
health, is heavily involved in a province-wide campaign to reduce the
harm done by prescription painkillers. As she has said, the root
causes can be difficult to determine.

Over the past three years Peterborough has averaged 9.2 opioid
overdose deaths per 100,000 people, nearly twice the provincial
average and higher than all but three Northern Ontario regions.

Some suggest the high percentage of seniors in Peterborough is a
factor. Aging brings on more long-term health issues, which result in
more prescriptions, which would lead to more addiction and deaths ...
or so the theory goes.

However, Cobourg and the City of Kawartha Lakes make up most of the
population of a single large health unit to the south and west of
Peterborough. Both have higher percentages of seniors than
Peterborough does and higher rates of prescription opioid users. But
the overdose death rate there is 5.4, much closer to Ontario's norm.

Dr. Salvaterra rightly warns against jumping to easy conclusions. She
also points out that a sudden cutback on opioid prescriptions would
would put those who are already addicted in jeopardy.

The good news is that slow progress is being made. While 40 per cent
of opioid users are still on stronger prescriptions than medical
guidelines call for, overall use of the drugs fell by nearly 20 per
cent last year.

That indicates that monitoring and education of doctors is having an
effect. They aren't writing fewer prescriptions but dosages are more
appropriate to actual need.

The bigger opportunity for reducing opioid use get the medical
community looking beyond opioids as the first alternative for pain

That requires more focus on pain management techniques in medical
schools and pain clinics with specialized staff in centres like

Those steps would get at the root of the addiction and overdose
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt