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Why The Opioid Pendulum May Have Swung Dangerously Too Far

The war on over prescribing has begun, and like any messy conflict, collateral damage is rampant already. Doctors, drug companies and pharmacies are trying to reverse the trend of over prescribing, and it’s long overdue, but the shift comes with it a few problems that cannot be ignored. Among these is the substantial demographic of people who actually need these opioid pain killing medications, and their sudden struggle to get access to them in a safe and monitored fashion. Doctors and other medical professionals are being extra cautious about prescribing many pain killers, and rightly so, but it’s leaving some patients unable to function or have a quality of life. Therein lies the problem, of course, of a sudden 180 when it comes to prescribing practices. People in need go without, until of course the dust settles, and some semblance of normality can be resumed.

With new training and guidelines when it comes to opioid pain killers, there appears to be a growing disconnect between medical resources and sufferers, and with the issue being in the news cycle more and more often, with dangerous language and warnings abound, a new term is emerging with plenty of negativity attached to it: Opioidphobia.

What is Opioidphobia? It’s a new term, so new in fact, it would probably be very hard to agree on one single definition. For our purposes, we can loosely define it as the stigmatization of chronic pain sufferers who are not addicts, but do require these types of pain killers to function. In many cases, function is a serious understatement. Under the right medical supervision and care, someone can take opioids and lead the lives they want to lead. Go to work, raise kids, have a social life and do what they want to do. These people are facing a new form of stigma because of the medicine they need to take in order to do the things we take for granted, like get up in the morning. Chronic pain is no joke, and the effects are enough to ruin the most perfect of lives.

The stigma is unhelpful, and characterizes folks who take prescription pain killers, of an opioid nature, as addicts automatically. In some cases, people on opoids are simply categorized as weak or lazy because people think they haven’t tried everything they can to reduce their pain, or that they simply have a low pain threshold. Of course in some cases, yes, some people can manage pain without medicine, but consider that luck more than effort because that’s all there is to it. Meditation, yoga, hot baths, stretching and so on can do a lot for folks in pain, but at the end of the day, in order to lead a normal and fulfilling life, chronic pain sufferers should not be stigmatized for doing what they have to get the job done.

Over prescribing has lead to a deficit in care, social stigma and a burning question in many peoples’ minds: What the hell do I do now? It’s a fair question, since many depend on their prescriptions to be filled on time and at the dose they are used to. Our health care providers will need to adjust their methodology to include better addiction prevention, more access to mental health support for those suffering from depression or anxiety at the same time as dealing with pain, and of course develop better techniques of weaning people down (or completely off) opioid pain killers. Given these types of drugs act similarly to heroine, you can start to see how suddenly cutting people off, or dropping their dose off a cliff, may not be such a fantastic idea.

Luckily in many provinces and cities across Canada, non-profit drug rehab centres like Searidge Foundation in Nova Scotia, and Sobriety Home in Ottawa, Ontario, offer help to those caught in the middle of a shifting societal view and approach to pain management. We know the conflicting thoughts many chronic pain sufferers have, and we attempt to provide custom tailored solutions to anyone walking through our door looking for help.

If you, or a loved one, are in need of addiction treatment or rehab services, don’t hesitate to call us today. We are not for profit, family run and provide the most up to date care available to all Canadians from all walks of life. Our goal is to help, educate and learn as much as we can to better help any Canadian in need of treatment, rehab our counselling for their potential addiction.

Need help? Call now to speak to one of our caring counsellors 1-866-777-9614
National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals