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Illicit Drug Users Denied Pain Medication

Genuine pain is genuine pain - we are all entitled to treatment

by sheryl jarvis

Illicit Drug Users Denied Pain Medication

As a known drug and methadone user I am terrified of the day I find myself in crisis resulting from pain. Hospitals automatically and notoriously treat those on Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) and other people known to them as drug users as “drug seekers”.

Staff don't care whether or not you have presented with a condition normally warranting pain medication and treatment. You will almost certainly be made to wait while arguments against your treatment are considered at length, or you may be provided with alternative measures which are at best ineffective or you could be completely turned away, and refused medication period.


In fact despite what some medical professionals may prefer to claim, there is a culture of “addiction paranoia” within practitioner circles. Even if you have zero history of illicit drug use, you may be refused pain medications or not provided with a high enough dose or for a long enough time. All because doctors fear the possibility of addiction.


Over the next weeks I am going to provide some information, tips, and advice about how best to advocate for yourself when you are in need of pain medications. And I am also going to be talking about current initiatives to change the paranoia practice in Canada and internationally.


It is a human right to be provided with adequate, effective, and speedy access to pain relief of all kinds, including access to narcotic pain medications.



SOROS is one of the leading international agencies dealing with denial of pain medications for all kinds of reasons including unfair pricing and policy for so called 3r world countries, and refusal for reasons related to discrimination. Check out some of their work here:


This web site talks about the practice of refusing patients pain medication world wide. They also deal with issues of forced sterilization and forced drug treatment. There is an interactive map allowing you a glimpse into practices by continent.


In Canada

Activists in Canada such as the Canadian Pain Society ( and the Canadian

Pain Coalition ( are calling for a National Pain Strategy.


Read about what is needed in a national strategy here:

  • Access to the treatment of pain without discrimination is a fundamental human right

  • The treatment of pain requires an inter-professional approach to care

  • The treatment of pain must be patient and family centered

  • Pain is a continuum (from acute to chronic and from birth to death)

Endorse the strategy demanding the federal government implement a National Pain Strategy here:

To Learn More attend one of the upcoming Canadian pain conferences in 2012.

  1. Rise Up Against Pain. Ottawa, On April 24, 2012 See the call for submissions too!

  1. Pain Hurts Everyone, Searching for Solutions – Whistler, BC - May 23-26, 2012



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