At the national level, Canadians received opioid prescriptions for an average of 6.2 days last year, down 9% since 2012.
New Brunswickers received opioid prescriptions for an average of 7.3 days last year, a 6% increase over 2012.
New national guidelines for prescribing opioids and the prescription monitoring program in New Brunswick could bring the province closer to the rest of the country, says Jordan Hunt, Pharmaceutical Manager at CIHI.
In only three provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Manitoba), doctors prescribe larger amounts of opioids on average than in New Brunswick.
Larger amounts of a potentially lethal drug
CIHI data focuses on the prescriptions of public programs and insurance companies. They provide an overview of the opioids most commonly prescribed to Canadians.
The most popular opioid in New Brunswick is hydromorphone, also known as Dilaudid. The average daily consumption of this drug has increased by 33% in the province from 2012 to 2016.
Abuse of hydromorphone can be fatal. Dilaudid has been implicated in more fatal and accidental overdose cases in New Brunswick than any other opioid from 2008 to 2016, according to data compiled by CBC. Dilaudid was involved in 57 deaths during this period.
Hydromorphone is used throughout the country. Jordan Hunt recalls that opioids are painkillers that play an important role. It is a matter of properly assessing their benefits and risks, and using them only when they are appropriate, he says.
At least 17 recent deaths related to opioids
At least 17 opioid-related deaths occurred this year in New Brunswick from January 1 to June 30.
Medical authorities have started to compile drug overdoses in real time, thanks to data provided by ambulance services and hospitals. New Brunswick has also created a task force to address the problem associated with opioids, but the group’s strategy has not yet been made public.
The New Brunswick Medical Society launched an information program this year to help physicians better understand the impact of opioid use over the long term. The lack of strategy for treating chronic pain is problematic, said the CEO of the Medical Society, Dr. Anthony Knight.