Pain is a complex beast that needs complex treatment. But there is a lot of chronic pain stigma. And we can’t all afford the chronic pain treatments available. While there is an opiate stigma preventing one form of chronic pain treatment.
The Angus Reid Institute released a survey Friday showing chronic pain is a much more widespread problem than many of us knew. Furthermore, two thirds of those suffering ongoing pain say they can’t afford the range of treatments they feel would improve their lives.
One in three adult Canadians reported being in some fo
rm of pain that has lasted longer than three months, said the poll, which was done in partnership with Pain B.C. and the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation. One in five considered the pain significant, due to its emotional and physical impact on their daily lives. Jack Knox
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Chronic pain is widespread. The treatment of it is Not. And the treatment is rarely multi-disciplinary. And few of us get into pain clinics and get effective pain management strategies… by the time I did, I had had chronic pain for over 22 years.
- Four in five of those in significant, ongoing pain say it stops them from doing regular activities, and six in 10 say it contributes to anxiety and depression. One in four sometimes feel “life isn’t worth living.”
- Three-quarters of those reporting ongoing pain have had it for more than three years. Three in 10 say it has lasted more than a decade.
- Lower-income households and women over age of 35 are more likely to be affected. (That latter bit is noteworthy in Greater Victoria, where females comprise 52 per cent of the population and their median age is 46.3, four years older than in the rest of the country).
- Eight in 10 Canadians are worried about opioid abuse due to pain. Of those who experience long-term pain, almost one in five avoid opioids entirely and one in four “curtail their usage of these types of medications because of health concerns.”
- Nearly four in 10 of those living with severe pain “have experienced difficulties in accessing prescription pain drugs because of their doctor’s or the healthcare system’s concerns about addiction and abuse.”
- Three in four of those who use cannabis to treat their pain call it effective. That’s the highest success rate for any of the physical or medicinal treatment methods they were asked about.
- More than nine in 10 of those polled said all Canadians, regardless of income, should have access to pain treatment that works for them. That was backed up by overwhelming support for the idea of higher subsidies for those who can’t afford treatments they need, more money for research into therapies and increasing the number of treatments covered as a part of public health care.
We need access to chronic pain treatments we cannot afford. Therapies that are recommended to us, like alternative therapies for forms of exercise, like hydrotherapy.
We need doctors to understand opiates can be part of that therapy. I for one, Cannot function let alone exercise without pain medication. And exercise is fundamental to my treatment with the pain clinic.
Cannabis that is medicinal should be covered by the government plans or insurance companies if we are using it medically and for pain management.
Unmanaged chronic pain is a suicide risk. We all said so. Not a one person listened to us.
6 million Canadians have chronic pain of some sort. That is about 1 in 5.
But pain advocates in North America are raising the alarm. They say the number of suicides by people with debilitating chronic pain is growing. There are calls for more publicly funded treatments, such as physiotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy, and better access to pain-killing medication for those truly in need.
“It’s outrageous,” says Halifax pain specialist Mary Lynch, pointing to waiting lists at most multidisciplinary pain clinics that stretch from one to three years. “People just don’t get it – that pain is a disease in its own right. There are vast areas of the country that have no access to services.
There is a war on pain patients while people think they are helping addicts… rarely get their drugs from doctors. There is an opiate stigma with pain patients and it is hurting us a great deal.
“There has been a huge chill on the issue of opioids and tremendous misunderstanding,” complains Maria Hudspith, the executive director of Pain BC, a coalition of pain doctors, researchers and patients. “We have seen people aggressively weaned, we’ve seen people being cut off their medications completely. And we have heard from people who are turning to the illicit market to access drugs in search of relief just out of sheer desperation. There have been documented cases of people who have overdosed and people who’ve committed suicide.” There’s a chronic pain crisis in Canada, and governments must address it
Fact is people are denied what will help them with pain and we cannot afford many of the alternatives for pain that are recommended to us. And in many cases, chronic pain is very difficult to manage and needs more than one approach to tackle it anyway. We need all the game pieces on the board. Instead, we are playing chess with just pawns while pain has a full board.
But maybe some hope?
But Canadians will soon be hearing more about pain. The federal Health Minister, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, is expected to announce a national task force on pain, perhaps next week at The Canadian Pain Society’s annual meeting in Toronto. Advocates have been fighting for years for this but the Harper government rejected the idea in 2012. There’s a chronic pain crisis in Canada, and governments must address it
So just stop punishing the pain patient. If you want us to survive and maybe even thrive or at the very least cope… treat us a little better than your family dog, eh?