Addictions doctor says physicians need more help treating people with chronic pain

An addictions doctor in Saskatchewan says physicians need more help treating people with chronic pain and avoiding opioids.

Saskatoon Health Region addictions consultant Doctor Peter Butt says there needs to be better access to physical therapy, massage therapy and other non-drug interventions, which aren't readily available in the health-care system.

He says dosage recommendations in the new national guidelines released in May are better, but the guidelines are weak when it comes to weaning people off opioids.

Butt, who is on a task force to address fentanyl and opioid deaths in Saskatchewan, also says without a good transition strategy, people could go into withdrawal and turn to street drugs.

The principal investigator for the guidelines says there are a lot of safeguards in place against rapid, inappropriate reduction of opioids in the new recommendations.

But Jason Busse, a researcher for the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre and an assistant professor at McMaster University, says he agrees with Butt that there are risks in being too aggressive in weaning patients off the drugs

He also says there needs to be better access to other therapies because doctors can't deliver services that aren't available.

 It's not known how many Canadians are hooked on opioids, but the highly addictive drugs were responsible for an estimated 25-hundred overdose deaths across the country in 2016.

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