Little is known about the consequences of the opioid epidemic on people living with chronic noncancer pain (CNCP). This study examined this issue in people who lived in the most impacted province by opioid overdoses in Canada (British Columbia [BC]) or one of the least impacted (Quebec [QC]), and examined the factors associated with opioid use.
Materials and Methods:
This cross-sectional study was carried out in adults living in BC (N=304) and QC (N=1071) who reported CNCP (≥3 months) and completed an online questionnaire that was tailored to their opioid status.
Almost twice as many participants in BC as in QC were proposed to cease their opioid medication in the past year (P<0.001). The proportion who reported having hoarded opioids in fear of not being able to get more in the future was also significantly higher in BC (P<0.001) compared with QC. In addition, they were significantly more likely to have had their opioid dose decreased than those in QC (P=0.001). No significant association was found between opioid discontinuation and province of residence. Two-thirds of the BC participants felt that the media coverage of the opioid crisis was very to extremely detrimental to CNCP patients in general, this percentage being significantly higher than in QC (P<0.001).
The opioid epidemic and associated prescribing restrictions have had harmful effects on Canadians with CNCP. The clinical community, the general public, and the media need to be aware of these negative consequences to decrease patients’ stigmatization and minimize inadequate treatment of CNCP.