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The Perils of Pain: Applying Primary Prevention to Combat Canada's Opioid Crisis

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The development and promotion of the pain reliever OxyContin marks a dark chapter in modern healthcare, leaving lasting impact. Following the introduction of the drug in 1996 by Purdue Pharma, it became popularized among prescribers due to the company’s unsupported assurance of its safety and efficacy. OxyContin has been highly profitable for Purdue but has resulted in dangerous health side effects, most notably chronic addiction. In addition, the increasing prevalence of opioid addiction exacerbates health and societal problems like illicit drug use, especially the abuse of other opioids like heroine and fentanyl. The ramifications of the opioid crisis extend beyond individual health problems, causing social issues, economic burden and political tensions as well. In response to this, the Canadian National Advisory Committee on Prescription Drug Misuse created the “First Do No Harm” strategy, focusing on prevention, education, treatment, monitoring and surveillance. Although these strategies have been applied with some success, opioid-related deaths and costs continue to grow in Canada. A primary preventative approach that focuses on using epidemiological data to reduce opioid access is thought to be an important part of ongoing strategies. Primary prevention will assist in improving the health of Canadians, mitigate future opioid-related healthcare costs and ultimately contribute toward stopping their ongoing distribution. In doing so, the future Canadian healthcare landscape, families and patients alike may be spared the collateral damage opioids cause.

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