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Canada's CAMH suggests restricting high-dose painkiller prescriptions to battle opioid epidemic

Opioid epidemic

(NaturalNews) A recent report from The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada has suggested that the northern nation should restrict access to high-dose opioids in order to curb their opioid epidemic.

Across the globe, opioid addiction is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem. The opioid epidemic reaches well beyond American soil – Canada is no exception. CTV News reports that addiction to prescription opioids increased by 70 percent in the seven years between 2004 and 2011.

Canada's Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott commented,"There's a very serious concern across the country about opioids and the escalating numbers of opioid overdoses and deaths."

The new report from the CAMH outlines many of the suspected forces driving the epidemic. For example, the agency notes that a lack of education among medical practitioners likely has contributed to the crisis, and the failure of government-funded initiatives means little relief has been provided.

One particular instance stands out as being particularly short-sighted. The report highlights the Ontario government's brilliant idea to remove OxyContin from drug plans. This endeavor led to the rise of prescriptions for other drugs, such as fentanyl – which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and has been linked to a number of deaths across the country.

CAMH stated in their report, "When opioid policy targets only particular opioids or formulations, use patterns may simply shift, with targeted opioids merely replaced by others."

The report further noted, "Events of the past few years serve to illustrate one of the key challenges of opioid policy: unless it addresses all opioids, use patterns may simply shift without a reduction in harm – or harms may even increase. Solving the opioid crisis will necessarily require reducing the availability of prescription opioids."

Some Canadian provinces have already begun restricting access to high-dose opiates such as fentanyl and morphine by removing them from the Ontario Drug Benefit program, with the exception of their use in palliative care. Philpott, however, is calling for a more evidence-based approach to curbing opioid abuse. Removing the drugs, after all, has already been shown to just push addicts to abusing new substances. Philpott stated, "The response to the crisis needs to be comprehensive. There's no single solution that's going to solve it."

New Canadian guidelines for opioids are expected to be unveiled some time in 2017, but until then, the government is suggesting that the nation's healthcare practitioners follow the CDC's current guidelines, which specify that opioids should not be the first line of treatment for pain, unless it is cancer-related.

Of course, the CDC guidelines have done very little for preventing opioid abuse in America. Opioid drugs cause more deaths in America than heroin. Prescriptions for opioids tripled in 20 years; in 2011, doctors wrote over 219 million prescriptions for these powerful drugs. Pain clinics, which at one time supposedly existed to help people, sprouted up all across the country. These little clinics have been dubbed "pill mills" for a good reason; they have ravaged the United States. There are almost 5,000 pain clinics nation-wide. South Florida has been widely considered to be the "pill mill" capital of the US, but in the last few years, things have changed. A CDC report of data from 2014 revealed that West Virginia had the highest rate of drug overdose death in the country, and one of the highest rates of opioid prescription, only bested by Alabama and Tennessee. And following Florida's crackdown on pill mills, the state has since seen a dramatic increase in heroin use. There has got to be a better way, don't you think?

A recent study Journal of the America Medical Association, showed that states that provide access to medical cannabis were associated with significantly lower opioid overdose mortality rates. States with medical marijuana laws also exhibited an almost 25 percent lower average of annual opioid overdose deaths than states without laws. Some users report that using medical marijuana has even helped them overcome their addiction to opiates. Perhaps medicinal plants like cannabis could pave the way for a better future.








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