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Prescription Opioids, Opioid Use Disorder, and Overdose Crisis in Canada: Current Dilemmas and Remaining Questions

Gorfinkel, Lauren, BArtsSc1; Wood, Evan, MD, PhD1,2; Klimas, Jan, PhD1,2,3

Canadian Journal of Addiction: June 2018 - Volume 9 - Issue 2 - p 10–12
doi: 10.1097/CXA.0000000000000016

ABSTRACT In Canada, a rise in opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose has been linked to opioid prescriptions in a number of contexts. At the same time, relatively few patients prescribed opioids reportedly develop OUD. This combination of findings suggests a pressing need for research on specific avenues through which medically prescribed opioids influence OUD and overdose in Canada. In this commentary, we therefore discuss a few of the potential processes that might allow for medically prescribed opioids to indirectly influence rising overdose rates, and the processes that might account for inconsistencies between large correlational research and studies of OUD incidence in opioid-prescribed patients.

1British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

3School of Medicine, University College Dublin, Health Sciences Centre, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

Corresponding Author: Jan Klimas, PhD, British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, 1045 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2A9, Canada. Tel: +1 604 687 2797, Fax: +1 604 806 9044, E-mail:

Received 29 November, 2017

Revised 29 January, 2018

Accepted 5 February, 2018

The study was supported by the US National Institutes of Health (R25DA037756). This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from the Canada Research Chairs program through a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Inner City Medicine that supports Dr. Evan Wood. A European Commission grant (701698) supported Dr Jan Klimas.

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interests associated with this work.

© 2018 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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