Chronic pain patients need services beyond just opioids: B.C. advocate

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VANCOUVER – People who live with chronic pain need options beyond prescription opioids, and it’s up to the British Columbia government to provide more services such as physiotherapy, says the head of a group that supports patients and their families.

“There has really been a lack of any appropriate response to chronic pain in our province and in our country,” said Maria Hudspith, executive director of Pain BC, the only non-profit society in Canada to bring together clinical experts and policy-makers to work on chronic pain management initiatives.

Beside painkillers, patients must have access to physical therapy and psychological support but wait lists stretch from one to three years at the few specialized pain clinics in the province, she said.

“We’ve seen this overreliance on the prescription pad as the only tool in the toolbox,” Hudspith said. “Some people may become dependent on the medication in order to function and some of those people may become addicted.”

One in five people in B.C. lives with pain that can be relentless and crippling but she said some communities have no specialized health-care providers for patients who need intervention after an injury or surgery, for example.

A lack of dedicated pain services means patients make more doctors’ visits and may require more surgeries, resulting in high health-care costs and poor quality of life, Hudspith said.

“There’s a growing recognition that this is a huge problem that is really, in many way, at the root of a lot of issues that we’re seeing.”

Hudspith said Pain BC has been in discussions with the provincial government to expand services.

Neither the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions or the Health Ministry could provide any information when the provincial government was contacted for comment.

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