Letters: Untreated chronic pain is the real story

March 08, 2017

'Re: B.C. man with PTSD got opioid, painkiller prescriptions from 10 doctors, Feb. 22

I was discouraged to read your article on doctor shopping and opioids. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. has provided no evidence of the degree of this problem. Out of the province’s 12,000 physicians, only 150-200 must attend a safe prescribing course. The issue of over-prescribing is being overstated and the larger issue of unmanaged pain obscured. 

It’s important to remember: 

  • One in five British Columbians live with chronic pain. The vast majority of patients who use opioids for pain do so responsibly.
  • The number of patients who develop addictions to opioids is between eight and 12 per cent. This is comparable with the prevalence of addiction in the general population.
  •  Opioids do have risks and those need to be managed. However, untreated pain also has risks (loss of function, loss of employment, social isolation and more) and is a gateway to illicit drug use.
  • The college’s standards and guidelines are having unintended, negative consequences on British Columbians. While the intention of the policy was to decrease harm related to medications, it has failed in its implementation.

Let’s tell the story of untreated pain instead of publicizing rare cases in an attempt to justify poor public policy.

- Maria Hudspith, executive director, Pain BC.'

Read the full article here.

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