July 2, 2017 2:28 pm

COMMENTARY: A deeply disturbing email begins to tell the opioid story for chronic pain patients

Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain lie on display.

John Moore/Getty Images

An email received this week from a chronic pain activist: “We just lost another intractable member of our support group two nights ago. She committed suicide because her medications were taken away for interstitial cystitis (a horribly painful bladder condition) and pudendal neuralgia, both of which she had battled for years. The nerve pain is equivalent to end-stage cancer pain, but the CDC and doctors in Colorado were merciless. She just couldn’t hang on any longer without hope.” She was just 30 years old.

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Yes, a chronic pain medication withdrawal story from the U.S. — You have though, heard of chronic pain (agony) patients declaring their intent to take their own lives should their opioid medications be significantly reduced or withdrawn.

Dawn Rae Downton, journalist and prescribed fentanyl patient for a dozen years joined me on air last weekend with her husband and spoke of her suicide plan should the only relief from constant agony be heavily reduced or taken away. Imagine hearing your spouse talk of committing suicide because of an entirely avoidable possibility (probability?). There has been a development this week which has raised Downton’s concerns significantly. She will join us this afternoon and explain.

READ MORE: Doctors beginning to speak out about pain patients denied opioids

Catherine is another Canadian chronic pain (agony) patient who has spoken on-air about her horrific reality. She is a 42-year-old business woman who also has a suicide plan should she be denied the only pain relief available — her opioid medication. Catherine too will join us later today.

Few journalists have yet taken the side of the chronic pain patient. Instead, the position of governments and medical bodies is unquestioningly accepted. Marvin Ross is an exception (with me). Marvin writes on health matters for Huff Post Canada. His most recent column is “B.C.’s New Opioid Standards Don’t Respect Our Right To A Pain-Free Life.” Marvin too will be heard today.

Challenging the opioid guidelines released recently in Canada is not difficult. Consider this from the guidelines: “In Ontario, annual admissions to publicly funded treatment programs for opioid-related problems doubled between 2004 and 2013, from 8,799 to 18,232.” Sounds like a major increase, doesn’t it?

This statistic has been parroted hundreds of times without the most fundamental question asked. The question I posed to professor Jason Busse, editor of the 2017 Canadian Guidelines For Opioids For Chronic Non-Cancer Pain. “How many of these people were chronic pain patients and how many were generic drug addicts?” Answer? They don’t know.

There is no breakdown. Why not? Perhaps because a breakdown of these numbers would reveal the majority, a great majority are not chronic pain patients at all?

READ MORE: Are new Canadian guidelines for opioid prescribing sensible — or cruel?

Doctors are beginning to enter the fray. Pain management specialist from Ottawa, Dr. Mary Redmond, shared her doubts about the drive to reduce significantly and withdraw opioid prescriptions entirely, two weeks ago on-air. Dr. Redmond has 1,200 chronic pain patients. They and she are worried about what will happen to them when she retires.

A senior Canadian Emergency Department (ED) physician sent an email in which he writes, “As opioids are more available, there has been a rise in opioid addiction, but that does not mean in deaths. But still, these are not reasons to deprive us and our patients of a great therapeutic tool for a terrible condition. Acute [and chronic] pain, which is one of the leading causes to visit an emergency department in the world world.” He concludes his email with, “It just does not make common clinical sense. I am glad that some people are starting to speak out and that some hidden agendas are finally coming to light.”

Listen today on the Corus radio network. And next weekend, a very senior physician will speak out against the War on Pain Patients.

Roy Green is the host of The Roy Green Show and a commentator for Global News.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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