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Canada’s Response to the Opioid Crisis

Neon light that reads Stop the opioid crisis

Opioids have quickly emerged as one of the primary means for managing acute and chronic non‐cancer pain in primary care settings. With an estimated 2,000 Canadians dying annually from prescription opioids, it is clear that we are facing a national crisis.

Currently, Canada is the second-highest consumer of prescription opioids in the world, with available evidence pointing to back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions as one of the key drivers.

What is clear is that change is needed to prioritize safer alternatives for Canadians struggling with chronic pain. As spine, muscle, and nervous system experts, health, Canada’s chiropractors can play a bigger role in reducing the over-reliance of opioids, starting with the conservative management of musculoskeletal conditions.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) has been advocating on behalf of Canadian chiropractors and their patients for greater access to conservative care options as first-line treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. By providing prompt access to clinical alternatives, like chiropractic care, evidence suggests that we can reduce reliance on opioids to treat acute and chronic musculoskeletal-related pain.

As part of the CCA’s participation in the federal Minister of Health’s National Opioid Conference and Summit on November 18 and 19, 2016, the CCA has outlined the profession’s position on the need for greater access to alternatives to opioids as first-line treatment, especially for those suffering from back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions.

The CCA has been included in the new federal joint statement of action to address this crisis because of the recognition of back pain as a key driver for current opioid prescribing. This statement was signed by the federal government, seven provincial health ministries, four other health professional associations (medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and dentistry), and 30 other partner organizations that have a role in reducing the impact of opioids. Together we can support and facilitate progressive and innovative practices that will not only improve health outcomes but also decrease over-reliance on opioids as a first-line intervention.


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