Painkillers Are Killing People in Canada: Study

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A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy
A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts, June 13, 2014.

Opioid painkillers have been responsible for the death of a large number of people in Canada, according to experts. It is argued that the death toll has increased by almost 250 per cent in Ontario from 1991 to 2010. The argument comes through a study conducted by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

The study was published in the journal Addiction on Monday, July 7. The study shows that in 1991 there were 12.2 deaths related to opioid painkillers in every one million, whereas the number rose up to 41.6 in a million in 2010. Around 127 people died every year in 1991 due to opioid-related causes, while in 2010, there were 550 deaths in a year due to the same cause. The rise is 242 per cent, to be exact, in 20 years.

Tara Gomes is the lead author of the study. She is a ICES scientist who is the principal investigator at the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network. According to Gomes, young people tend to suffer more due to the problem. People who are between 25 and 34 are one among every eight casualty in connection with opioids. Gomes said that the findings of the study were "quite striking."

Opioids happen to be one of the oldest drugs in use. It is used to have a reduced feeling of physical pain. It also increases pain tolerance and decreases reaction to body pain. There are, however, certain side-effects which include respiratory depression, sedation and euphoria. It may also work as a cough suppressive element. A person may also get addictive to such drugs. Oxycodone, codeine and morphine are some of the strong drugs which fall in the opioids category.

The study was based on accidental deaths related to opioids. However, there are some cases of suicide as well. The dosage as well as the rate of prescribing such drugs has increased over the years, according to the study. There is a false notion that prescribed drugs are less harmless than street drugs as doctors suggest those, Gomes said. She also said recreational use of drugs among young people may be a reason why they are among the victims.

Contact the writer: s.mukhopadhyay@ibtimes.com.au

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