The opioid crisis.  It may not be entirely as advertised.  Certainly those addicted to hard drugs will find opioids of interest and no doubt these medications can and will unfortunately lead to lives lost.  We read the statistics and hear painful accounts of opioid abuse told by family of those addicted to drugs.  Most any drugs.

What isn’t addressed in story after opioid abuse story is the actual benefit opioids deliver to a significant percentage of Canadians suffering from debilitating levels of chronic pain.  Pain so destructive it can and does lead to suicide when a patient’s access to prescribed opioid medication like morphine, Oxycodone, Percocet and Fentanyl is either significantly reduced in strength, or cut off by the tandem of doctors and governments apparently indifferent to terrible suffering.

A leading medical pain specialist shared on air that a four stage route to suicide by those who are refused meds which have made their lives bearable is pain, social isolation, depression, suicide.

I have spoken on air with chronic sufferers.  One such caller shared his pain levels are so destructive he thinks of suicide daily.  That’s with his prescribed opioids.  Another caller spoke of his wife leaving their home.  His years of living with chronic pain, only somewhat relieved by an opioid prescription dosage his doctor is now too afraid to increase, became more than the marriage could sustain.

Dennis Prager is a U.S. syndicated radio talk show host.  In January Mr. Prager wrote a posting on his website ( titled ‘Why My Stepsons’ Father Killed Himself.’  Denis Prager does not shield doctors, politicians or bureaucrats. “They believe it is better to allow any number of innocent people to suffer hideous pain for the rest of their lives than to risk any patient getting addicted and potentially dying of an overdose” and “Dr. Stephen Marmer, who teaches psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, told me that he treated children with terminal cancer when he was an intern and even they were denied painkillers, lest they become addicted.”

Ontario has already taken steps to shove chronic pain sufferers into the pain abyss. As of January 1, 2017, the Ontario Drug Benefit program stopped covering high strength and long-acting opioids in its drug formulary. The advice to patients?  Talk to you doctors about making changes to your drug treatment.  Tell that to an 80 or 90 year old senior suffering from pain so vicious he or she is challenged to perform the most perfunctory of life’s tasks.  “We’re no longer paying for your drugs.  It doesn’t matter if you haven’t the money to pay out of pocket, we’ve decided to cut you off” declares the government of Ontario.

At a major ‘invitation only’ federal conference on opioids last November in Ottawa, co-hosted by federal Minister of Heath Jane Philpott and Ontario Minister of Health Eric Hoskins, the only stake holders barred from attending were pain patients and their doctors. They were told they could watch proceedings through a webcast.

Eventually, I’m told, the restriction was lifted, but clearly the federal and provincial governments did not want public revelation of the pain 15-20% of Canadians suffer.

Ministers Philpott and Hoskins are both medical doctors.

Dennis Prager finishes his accounting of the end of the life of his stepsons’ father.  “On the last morning of his life, after what was surely a lonely, horrific night of sleeplessness and agony, Bruce made two calls, two final attempts to acquire the painkillers he needed to get through another night.  Neither friend could help him.  Desperate to end the pain, he picked up a gun, pressed it to his chest and pulled the trigger.”

Does anyone truly care about the patients whose pain has caused them to share on air it may drive them to end their lives?  Anyone but the patients themselves and a relatively small cadre of pain doctors on the front lines?

Roy Green

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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