February 10, 2018 4:56 pm
Updated: February 10, 2018 6:27 pm

Medical professionals meet to discuss opioid issues among Canada’s seniors


A Montreal conference is aiming to address opioid poisoning among Canada’s seniors. They make up the highest rate of accidental opioid poisonings in the country — and almost a quarter of those hospitalized were taking them as directed by their physician.

Speaking on the Alberta Morning News, Calgary physician Dr. Jim Silvius explained that the statistic is an example of a need for change.

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“It’s not a bad thing that there has been use of opioids. That has led to a lot of heightened awareness,” he said. “What it’s done is made everyone question, is this opioid appropriate for this individual?”

Those who take opioids for more than seven days are at a high risk for developing a dependence. As a population that often deals with chronic pain, this adds to the risk for seniors.

READ MORE: 1 in 8 Canadians have a family member or close friend with an opioid addiction: poll

“As people age, what may have been appropriate in the past for them may not be appropriate anymore because our systems age with us, and we don’t handle them as well,” Silvius said. “And that’s where some of the problems are coming from.

“There are some initiatives in some provinces where post-operative people are going home with an open-ended opioid prescription, and now there’s a restriction being placed on how much opioid is given.”

Another topic of discussion is incorporating other forms of pain management to be used alongside or as an alternative to opioids.

Alberta Help Services has developed a strategy called the “pain ladder”, which incorporates alternative mechanisms.

“It was intended for chronic cancer pain, but in fact it includes quite a number of other alternatives that can be used for different types of pain rather than using opioids,” Silvius explained. “Depending on the nature of the pain, you may have topical therapies, exercise and physical therapy for example. Massage can be useful sometimes.”

Medicinal cannabis is also an alternative being explored. While Silvius promotes cannabis for pain management, he does add that it needs to be used with careful thought and controlled conditions.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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