New chronic pain clinic aims to reduce opioid usage, visits to the emergency room
A Sudbury addictions specialist says he hopes the new chronic pain clinic at Health Sciences North will help address the ongoing opioid crisis.
The clinic aims to help patients manage their chronic pain through a team approach and the hospital says it could cut down on visits to the emergency room and the amount of medication someone is taking.
"I always tell my patients, if I get your pain down to zero, I didn't do my job because I've probably put you in a coma," Dr. James Callaghan said. He's the physician lead for the clinic.
He says he's already been able to see some patients who take opioids cut down on their medication.
"They can say, 'You know what? I don't need these anymore. You know, if I get a big flare up, then that's when I take it. But now I can manage with a little Tylenol, a little Advil here, I do my exercises, I do my stretches,'" he said.
Sudbury addictions specialist Dr. Mike Franklyn says the hospital's approach to pain management is a good one.
"My concern is I suspect that they're going to become inundated with people who have a five, 10, 15, 20 year history of chronic pain and the only modality they've been exposed to is the opioids," he said.
"That's a problem."
When opioids should be taken
Franklyn says some doctors prescribe opioids as a first line of treatment for those in chronic pain. However, he says that's not the best approach.
"The very pills that help with the pain initially, now make you experience more pain," he said.
"Initially, you have a response that it blocks [the pain]. But after awhile, the body needs to feel pain as an early warning system. So you develop tolerance [and] you need more and more and more."
Franklyn says opioids do have a role in treating acute pain, such as an injury or recovery from surgery.
"People should get a three to five day prescription for opioids," he said.
"Beyond that, we should use anti-inflammatories and other modalities. For chronic pain, we should probably never start [opioids]."