Painkiller deaths double in Ontario

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

Painkillers are causing twice the number of overdose deaths they were two decades ago, a new study has revealed. And most of those who died obtained the medications through a doctor’s prescription and had seen a physician within the last month of their life.

The increase mirrors a dramatic rise in prescriptions for oxycodone. The potent opiate, found in OxyContin and Percocet, has proliferated in an epidemic of chronic pain turning Canadians into a nation of pill-poppers – using more prescription opioids per capita than any country but the United States and Belgium.

It’s an indication that many doctors have underestimated the power and complexity of prescription opioids, and their ability to harm as well as help, said Irfan Dhalla, a doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the report’s primary author.

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