Report suggests prescribing opioids as a last resort

The chairman of the Coalition for Safe and Effective Pain Management says it's time doctors put down their prescription pads when it comes to opioids except as a last resort.

Michael Heitshu says Canada is the second-leading consumer of opioids in the world and is often prescribed for common pain conditions such as back pain, arthritis and chronic pain -- conditions where these drugs aren't very effective.

He says a lack of affordable alternatives for pain relief in Canada is partly behind an over-reliance on opioids and rising addiction rates.

An interim report released at a pain management conference yesterday also suggests the best way to cut down on opioid addiction is to not prescribe the drugs in the first place.

The report says doctors should recommend alternative therapies such as psychological treatments, physio and occupational therapy and chiropractic care.

It also suggests provincial and federal governments consider adding alternative medicine to public health-care coverage.

A final report from the coalition is expected next year.