Are Opioids Ever Safe?

Reader's Digest Canada|July/August 2020

Are Opioids Ever Safe?
We ask ER doctor Daniel Kalla
Courtney Shea

We hear so much about opioid misuse and abuse, but is there a safe way to use these drugs?

Absolutely. We give fentanyl to people in the hospital for things like draining an abscess or if they’ve had their gallbladder out and need to get through the operative pain. It’s safe when controlled. The problem is that doctors were prescribing opioids too liberally as a way to manage long-term pain. After a while, there was no pain—just addiction. en, when people are no longer able to get what they need legally, or they aren’t getting the same high and require something stronger, they transition to street drugs.

When did opioid abuse in Canada go from a problem to a crisis?

About six years ago, we started to see the overdose levels spike. At St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, arguably the epicenter of the opioid crisis in this country, I went from seeing three to four overdoses a day to 10 to 20.


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July/August 2020