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Does Canada Have an Opioid Epidemic?


OxyContin has annual sales of over $35 billion in the US! How? The book Crooked by CJ Ramin, explains in detail the conspiracy behind the opioid industry that continues on an international basis to this day. The studies seem to deliberately fail to report on the true addiction and death rates related to these drugs. They ignore the fact that four out of five heroin users in the US report that their opioid use began with medically prescribed drugs. In 1986 a paper was published in the journal Pain concluding that opioids could be safely and effectively prescribed …with relatively little risk of adverse effects. It was stated that just 1% of the patients who were treated had become addicted. This paper was used by the pharmaceutical industry to promote to MDs the prescription of opioids. It was not until recently that the paper originally published in 1986 was denounced as incorrect and not a real “study”, however to date, that paper has been cited in 635 other studies. In their propaganda, the industry marketed to MDs that opioid therapy for chronic pain was no different from providing insulin to a diabetic. It has taken two decades for the Cochrane collaboration to find no significant benefit for opioids over NSAIDs or over-the counter Aleve. Finally, now the American Academy of Neurology states that the risks of opioids in the treatment of musculoskeletal chronic pain patients far outweigh the benefits.


Canada has one of the highest per capita consumption rates of prescription opioids in the world. A staggering 21.7 million prescriptions for opioids were dispensed in Canada in 2015 alone. In Ontario there has been a 1,566% increase in methadone maintenance treatment enrolments in the last 20 years. This increase in treatments co-insides with the rise of opioid prescriptions, suggesting a strong correlation.


There is no question that Canada needs to address chronic pain in a more effective fashion. More attention must be paid to drug-free forms of treatment like physiotherapy. Studies confirm time and time again the effectiveness of physiotherapy for the management and resolution of a wide variety of orthopaedic syndromes that cause pain. In physiotherapy, patients take an active role in treatment and they are empowered with strategies to increase their control over their pain. Physiotherapy provides an avenue to address and treat the underlying cause of the pain instead of simply masking it with medication. Functional goals are set collaboratively with the patient to determine success.


Canada needs to do something about its costly opioid epidemic. Canada needs to take a more natural approach to pain syndromes that focus on alternatives to opioids such a physiotherapy.


Lee Quenneville

Registered Physiotherapist

Orthopaedic Acupuncture Practitioner