While overdoses grab the headlines, there are thousands of other unintentional victims of the opioid crisis currently gripping B.C.
A growing number of chronic pain sufferers say they’ve been denied opiates following new guidelines introduced by the province’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in June.
For a Metro Vancouver woman, whose identity Global News has agreed to conceal, the past five months have been unbearable.
“Lucy” says chronic pain has plagued her for decades.
“Within ten minutes of waking up, I have an ice pack on my head,” she said, describing the simple but insufficient remedy she now resorts to.
She is among the one in five British Columbians who struggle with chronic pain.
“I have had chronic intractable migraines for 29 years,” Lucy said. “When I wake up in the morning, it’s pretty much a nine out of ten.”
Over the counter pain killers are her only option these days. However, for years, it was morphine.
“I was dependent on it. It made my life cope-able,” she said.
Changes introduced by the college saw doctors significantly scale back on opiate prescriptions. Patients already on the medication were to be weaned off.
Long term opioid treatment was no longer advisable for headache disorders, fibromyalgia and axial low back pain, among other conditions.
Lucy says she was cut off.
In recent months, the provincial government has moved to control the use and spread of opioids, particularly in light of the fentanyl crisis unfolding in B.C.
Maria Hudspith, Pain BC’s executive director, says it takes more than just opiates to treat chronic pain, but that support system isn’t in place in B.C.
She says doctors and patients have been unintentionally caught in the middle.
“The challenge is that we’ve been relying solely on opioids in many cases for a long time and the alternatives for people are just not there,” Hudspith said.
She says some are turning to the black market for relief. Lucy is one of them.
She’s aware there is a risk she could unknowingly buy something laced with fentanyl, but says the pain relief is worth it.
“The relief is nice. You can just sit back, and you know, not be plagued by it day in and day out.”