Opioid users with chronic pain feel stigmatized: survey
Prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are shown on June 20, 2012. (Graeme Roy / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
MONTREAL -- Celine Charbonneau knows what it's like to feel pain.
For about 10 years she lived with considerable pain in her legs after an unsuccessful operation for a birth defect.
Charbonneau, who is now president of a Quebec association that represents people with chronic pain, took opioids during that period, including Duragesic.
"It's the equivalent of fentanyl," she said in an interview Wednesday.
Charbonneau, who stopped consuming them in 2010, said she never felt judged when she mentioned in conversation she was taking the drug.
"But this was in the 2000s and there was no opiate crisis yet," she said. "Had I experienced this after 2010, I'm convinced the outlook would be quite different."
Charbonneau was speaking on the same day a study was released on the perceptions of 1,097 Quebecers and 307 British Columbians when it comes to the consumption of opioids among people who suffer from chronic pain.
The survey was conducted by the research council affiliated with the Centre hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal between January and April.
Among the Quebec respondents, 551 took opioids, 149 had stopped taking them within the past year and 397 had not taken them at all.
Of current consumers, 19 per cent had seen their doses diminish between 2010 and this year for various reasons, including secondary effects and lesser pain levels.
For comparative reasons, the researchers surveyed 294 participants from each province whose profile was similar in terms of age, gender and the duration of their pain.
They found that 26 per cent of the British Columbian sample had been advised by their doctor to stop taking opioids, compared with 14 per cent of the Quebec sample.
The percentage of patients who had not used opioids in the past year was significantly higher in Quebec (37 per cent) than in British Columbia (25 per cent).
And respondents from both provinces said they felt media coverage of the opioid crisis projects a bad image of people who take them because of chronic pain.
"Many prejudices persist with regard to this type of medication, and they contribute to unduly categorizing people who suffer from chronic pain," said lead researcher Manon Choiniere.
Charbonneau, for one, has had to address her past use in conversation.
"I have to explain to people why it was like that and why it was beneficial in my case," she said.