Prescriptions for pain pills in St. John’s have become scarce since a rash of overdoses from the deadly opioid fentanyl, says an addictions doctor.
Bruce Hollett, divisional chief of family medicine, chronic pain and addiction at the Waterford Hospital, is concerned with where patients will turn when their prescription is not renewed.
“Here in the last three weeks in St. John’s, a lot of the prescriptions for opioids have started to dry up,” he said during a Facebook live special with CBC.
“What ends up happening is they find out it’s being abused, they stop it immediately, and then the person is left [wondering] where do I go?”
People have augmented their income or supported drug habits by the “rule of thumb,” Hollett said — keeping one third of the pills for themselves and selling the rest.
Even though there will be fewer prescription pills on the street, Hollett anticipates overdoses and deaths will continue at the same rate — or higher.
There have been 21 reported overdoses and one death related to fentanyl in the metro St. John’s area since April 1, according to Eastern Health.
Prescriptions go down, deaths go up
In March 2016, the American Center for Disease Control introduced new guidelines for prescribing opioids.
‘Street naive individuals started going into the street.’
– Dr. Bruce Hollett
Those guidelines included lower doses for patients — a maximum of 90 milligrams per day, Hollett said.
Four Canadian provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, immediately followed suit and endorsed the guidelines.
While the number of prescriptions plummeted, Hollett said, the death rates increased.
Pain patients had developed addictions and turned to other methods to get their fix.