An expert in pain management at the Capital District Health Authority says universities must do a better job of training health-care professionals to treat pain.
Dr. Mary Lynch, research director of the pain management unit at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, said veterinarians in Canada get more training in pain assessment and management than do doctors.
She said patients are being discharged from hospital after surgery without being given good information on managing pain. One study showed 50 per cent of people are leaving without a prescription for pain medication.
"There's needless suffering with the acute pain," Lynch told Don Connolly on CBC's Information Morning.
"We now know that that acute pain, if left untreated, it leaves people at higher risk of developing persistent post-operative pain and then joining the ranks of people suffering from chronic pain conditions."
This comes as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia recently approved a new policy that instructs doctors to look at a patient's monitored drug history before writing a prescription for narcotics or controlled substances.
The goal is to make sure narcotics are prescribed to patients who need the drugs for pain relief, rather than someone with an addiction or who may be looking to sell the drugs.
Lynch said only a small number of people who are prescribed opiates for pain become addicts and there's a variety of reasons why.
But with growing publicity around prescription drug addiction, Lynch said some people are stopping their medications entirely and there are doctors who won't prescribe.
She said there is denial, ignorance and a stigma around people with pain. Health-care professionals, she said, are not adequately educated on how to help those suffering.