In Ontario Canada, researchers found that physicians are over-prescribing narcotic pain killers. Ontario drug researchers are linking this six year investigation to the reason for an increase addiction and deaths caused by prescription drugs in their region. Efforts are in the works trying to curb addiction and monitor those that are being prescribed the narcotics.

Will Ontario become a smuggler’s paradise? Will it feed the lower 48 states with Oxy and other drugs once Florida gets its act together and handles the prescription drug epidemic there?

The province’s public drug plan for Canadians in Ontario covers prescription narcotic pain killers. Research done by Ontario Drug Policy Research Network discovered that the plan was exceeding the amount of doses set out in Canadian clinical guidelines. Tara Gomes who is the project leader and epidemiologist for the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, published on Tuesday in the journal of Open Medicine that prescription rates for all opioids rose 16.2% between 2003 through 2008.

The Ontario Drug Policy Research Network did a study between 2003 through 2008. They looked at prescriptions of patients that were between the ages of 15 and 64. These patients were all prescribed high doses of OxyContin and morphine to help relieve the pain of a recovering surgery or back injury. The problem is that these prescriptions at such a high dosage can become addicting even after there ailment, and fatal.

The study also showed that by 2008 about one out of every three patients was prescribed Oxycodone.  This long-acting pain relieving opioid, OxyContin increased sales by 52% between 2003 through 2009. Patients were receiving an extremely high dosage according to the Canadian clinical guidelines. Oxycodone is about 1.5 to 2 times more potent than morphine and 10 to 20 times more potent than codeine. A 2009 research revealed the number of publicly funded prescriptions for OxyContin had tripled from 2003 through 2008.

These patients were divided up into three categories based on the first 90 days of opioid treatment. First you had the category “moderate,” with people in this category receiving an average of 200 mg for oral morphine. Second there was the “high” category, and these patients got an average daily dose of 201mg to 400mg of oral morphine. Then you had the “very high” category, these patients received more than 400mg daily. Or, the patients would receive another type of opioid with the equal potency.

Tara Gomes said that patients that were receiving the high dosage of narcotics were dying about 10 times more often then the general public. Researchers looked at the death records associated with opioid overdose. They found that the patients had a two year mortality rate of about 42 per 1,000 populations.  Among patients prescribed these high doses of opioids in 2004, 19% of deaths within the next two years were medication related. Research found that most of the deaths happened at around the age of 42, this is a very young age to die.

The office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario classified 302 deaths that were opioid related and confirmed the 45 of those deaths were suicide. Tara Gomes thinks that there are a number of factors that are involved in the increase of opioid prescription. She believes that physicians are becoming more comfortable with prescribing the medication. When the doctors do not properly understand the risk of the drug they are prescribing. There is also a heavy demand in marketing from the pharmaceutical companies to push these narcotics. But Gomes’s main concern is patients who shop around for multiple prescriptions, or a practice known as Multi-doctoring.

In November of 2009, Ontario passed a legislation to diminish prescription drug abuse. Ontario is working on a network of electronic records to show the history of the patients that are getting the prescription drugs. Allowing physicians to see the other doctors and pharmacies the patient has seen for painkillers. This allows them to monitor under public and private drug plans. The network is supposed to be fully functioning later this year.

– Cesar Villalobos