Reducing health wait times means reducing new opioid addictions


The opioid crisis in Canada is real and it is getting worse fast.

Dealing with this crisis is going to take efforts on multiple fronts.

Safe consumption sites are one facet which has been making the news a lot lately. We need to try and keep these addicts alive long enough to hopefully get them off of the drugs permanently. Unfortunately while they have reversed overdoses at these sites the placement of these sites has led to increases in crime and social disorder wherever they are located. Hopefully this can be sorted out over time as we work to mitigate the loss of lives while not turning neighborhoods into dangerous slums.

We need more resources directed to mental health and addiction treatment.

Aside from the moral aspect, even the most heartless of fiscal conservatives should be able to support this dedication of funding. Treated addicts save us all when we look at the reduced weight on our justice and health systems.

If we don’t couple consumption sites with aggressive treatment options though, we are only facilitating the problem.

Something often lost in the discussion is the prevention of addiction in the first place. Again, mental health resources can help with this as it may prevent people with disorders from trying to self-medicate with opioids.

Another issue which is creating untold numbers of opioid addicts is the ever increasing wait times for treatment in our medical system.

Our stubborn adherence to our failing model of health care has cause wait lists to become interminable for specialized procedures and emergency care. We canonize Tommy Douglas and constantly increase spending on our system while outcomes continue to get worse and worse.

The trend is undeniable. This is not conjecture or ideology, this is simply stats.

When compared to 11 other comparable nations which provide universal health coverage, we rank 11th when it comes to wait times.

My wife Jane just got some much needed back surgery done last month. That is well over two years since her very first visit to a general practitioner with back pain. As the pain increased over time while waiting for treatment, the prescriptions for pain relief increased. What else is a doctor or patient supposed to do? Now Jane’s back is much better but she is still in the process of weaning herself off of the pain medication.

Everybody knows somebody with a similar story in Canada. Knee issues, hip issues or back problems, they are all debilitating and all have huge backlogs of patients waiting for treatment. Pretty much all folks waiting for these kinds of treatments are given pain medication to tide them over until they can get surgery. Unfortunately, many find themselves being hopeless addicts by the time they finally get treated (thankfully Jane is coming off the meds well).

We often hear than many kids begin their addictions through finding opioids in their parent’s or grandparent’s medicine cabinets. In that case, lets address why so many medicine cabinets are full of painkillers!

The proliferation of painkillers in general and the creation of many addicts can be directly related to people being medicated while awaiting medical treatment so lets look at doing something about it.

We need to reform how we provide health care rather than continue to toss dollars at an overburdened. Of those 10 nations listed above, all of which provide universal care (nobody is indebted due to health costs), all of them provide more private treatment options than Canada does!

Lets look at outcomes rather than ideology for a change. We know 100% that simply spending more money has not and will not reduce medical waiting times. That means that provision has to change. The biggest handicap Canada has with provision is our ridiculous banning of so many private provision options. It drives desperate patients along with their dollars out of our country for treatment and it costs us specialists. Let’s bloody well start looking at the nations that are doing better than us (most of them) and emulate what they are doing. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel here.

The longer somebody is on painkillers, the higher the chance of them developing a dependence. This also means more time with these medications being accessible in their households. Reducing the time on waiting lists will reduce both addiction rates and proliferation of the drugs.

It is going to take initiatives on a number of fronts to take on this national opioid addiction crisis. We can’t afford to overlook problems and solutions based on ideology. One area that we are not speaking of enough is where these addicts and the drugs are coming from and the growing waiting lists for medical treatment are a large factor in this.

Lets get on it!

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