PEI’s Health Minister and Deputy disagree on PEI’s new war on pain killers

Health PEI is starting a smoke screen war on narcotics to divert public attention from closing rural hospitals – the Minister and his Deputy tell two different stories

Health Minister Doug Currie and Deputy Dr. Michael Mayne – two versions of “War on Pain Killers” – a smokescreen?

The announced get-tough stance on prescription of pain killers appears to be a smoke screen to divert attention from hospital closings. It is a phony shadow war at best.

Health Canada reports pain-killer use is dropping across Canada. PEI is on par with the national average. Where is this “dramatic increase” reported by the Minister, CBC and the Charlottetown Guardian? 

P.E.I.’s Health Minister Doug Currie will be tabling legislation today that will clamp down on increasing prescription of narcotic pain-killers.

So the PEI government is bringing out the big guns for the less than one percent solution. Smells like a phony war to me. Adding to the heated rhetoric is a plan to suspend drivers who are “high”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for controlling abusive of drugs to a reasonable extent. We will always have people addicted to drugs, alcohol or some other mind/mood altering substance. However, zero substance abuse is not possible.

Health Minister Doug Currie is calling for tough action. His Deputy Michael Mayne says the new regulations are more a reporting mechanism.

Who is right, the PEI’s gun slinging minister or his mild mannered Deputy?

In the Legislature, Minister of Health Doug Currie trumpeted his desire to control pain killers.  ”I’ve got some very serious concerns and I’m going to bring in a very aggressive surveillance and monitoring of why is that volume of narcotics and opiates increasing in the province,” said Minister Currie.

How bad is the problem? Health Canada report abuse of pain killers in less than 0.5% (half of one percent) of the PEI population. To eradicate that problem, the Minister intends to intimidate doctors and restrict valid clinical use of narcotic pain killers.

Narcotic Pain Killers on PEI

He can solve the problem easier by banning or strictly controlling OxyContin, a brand name for Oxycodone.  Oxycodone is a disaster waiting to happen

Michael Mayne the deputy minister of health soft pedaled any new regulations in an email to me.

“The key aspect of this legislation is to enable the Minister to monitor, share results and review drug dispensing on PEI. There is no intent within the proposed legislation that will limit the ability of a physician to prescribe medication. Further, there should be no alarm in particular for those in need of the medication.”

Minister Currie no doubt is using hyperbole to impress the media and opposition. He may be creating a smoke screen diversion for rural residents of PEI.

The government is closing rural hospitals as fast as possible. This week rural Islanders gave Premier Ghiz the snub of silent roses when he tried to explain downsizing rural healthcare.

In politics it’s deemed helpful to create a diversionary smokescreen. Everyone but drug addicts should react warmly to announcements about a war on drug abuse.

The Minister even pulled at the public’s heart-strings with anecdotal stories about mothers calling him every day about their pain-killer addicted children. Again, I am not saying the stories are not genuine. I’ve got my family abuse stories that broke my heart. However, the facts don’t support the Minister’s claims or reaction.

The media are blowing the use of pain killers out of proportion with stories like CBC’s – Dramatic increase in painkiller prescriptions.

Health Canada reports a reduction in pain killer prescriptions. The media like to report sensational political press releases without fact checking.

To push the phony war harder, the government announced it will immediately suspend the licenses of drivers who are “high on drugs.”

Phony war on pain killers.

This is of course a solution looking for a problem. Health Canada reports that abuse of pain killers is dropping in Canada, with only 3.2% of Canadians use pain-killers outside their medical purpose.

Overall use of pain killers is dropping says Health Canada. “A statistically significant decline was seen in psychoactive pharmaceutical use between 2011 … driven by a statistically significant decrease in the use of opioid pain relievers to 16.7% in 2011 from 20.6% in 2010.

“Of those who indicated they had used an opioid pain reliever, a stimulant or a sedative or tranquilizer in the past year, 3.2% reported they abused such a drug. Abuse is use for the experience, the feeling caused, to get high or for other non-prescribed reasons.”

That is one of the major findings from the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS) 2011

The number of people abusing pain killers on PEI is so small, less than half of one percent, that Health Canada calls it statistically unreliable.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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