Opioids kill hundreds of Canadians a year. Why are doctors still prescribing so many?

August 10, 2015 – Anna Mehler Paperny, Global News

David Juurlink sees them daily — old and young, with strokes or pneumonia or broken bones or drug-related overdoses, accidents, constipation.

Their ailments and backgrounds and health conditions run the gamut. And they’re all on high doses of a drug five times more powerful than morphine.

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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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Canada, you need an intervention

Saturday, November 14, 2009 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

Janey Nagle wasn’t looking for kicks when she began courting a drug habit. The Percocets her doctor prescribed were the only thing that could take away the excruciating pain that lingered a decade after a car accident threw her into a windshield with such force that her face left an imprint in the glass.

For the first two years, the painkillers did the trick. The Perth, Ont., mother of four was able to work and look after her family. But after a while she couldn’t get through the day without the pills’ euphoric effect, and that demanded higher and higher doses.

Fearful her doctor would cut her off, Ms. Nagle looked elsewhere. She spent hundreds of dollars a day on prescription drugs bought off the street, primarily from friends and acquaintances. She photocopied her prescriptions and filled each one repeatedly at pharmacies around Perth, Kingston and Smiths Falls.

“It was a horrible, panicked feeling every morning when I woke up,” says Ms. Nagle, now 43. She remembers the daily dilemma: “How am I going to get them? Where am I going to get the money?”

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