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Opinion: The hidden risks of pain medication

Using street narcotics to deal with pain has become a mainstream problem leading to increasing fentanyl drug overdoses.
There are many people walking among us who use narcotics and stronger opioids as pain medication.

This article is written in dedication to those individuals have lost their lives to ‘drug overdose’ because they were forced to self-medicate to handle their physical pain.

When someone we love or respect in our community dies from an overdose, we wonder how this tragedy could happen so close to home. There are many people walking among us who use narcotics and stronger opioids as pain medication. And when the doctors cut them off (due to the addictive nature of these drugs) they may have to resort to finding them elsewhere to avoid regressing back into their intolerable pain.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of individuals willing to take advantage of this need, and narcotics/opioids are common on the black market.  However, these ‘street’ drugs are often replaced by, or laced with drugs such as fentanyl (a very strong synthetic opioid). 

Using street narcotics to deal with pain has become a mainstream problem leading to increasing fentanyl drug overdoses. This drug has its place as an effective prescribed pain medication and anesthesia in hospitals, but laced into other black market pain meds it has devastating consequences.  

Here is a potential scenario of how one could end up on ‘street’ pain meds and the danger of overdosing on fentanyl. If one has inflammation (pain) in their body they may start popping OTC NSAIDs (over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, tylenol, naproxen, advil…) but these are not meant to be taken for more than a couple weeks as they have long-term side effects. They may also eventually lose their effectiveness.  

When the over-the-counter meds stop working, one may head off to the doctor to get something stronger, and may be prescribed muscle relaxants, antianxiety meds, stronger NSAIDs like naproxen, celecoxib or a steroidal drug like cortisone or prednisone.  

If or when these meds lose their effectiveness or a stronger narcotic / opioid is needed, meds containing codeine, tramadol, morphine, oxycontin, demerol or fentanyl may be prescribed. These drugs are not meant for long-term use because they are so addictive and cause other health issues.  Due to the addictive nature of opioids/narcotics, the doctor or pharmacist will most likely eventually cut off the supply to this very effective pain medication.

For this reason, I feel they should only be prescribed with added support and detox options.  If/when the 'cut off' happens, severe withdrawal symptoms as well as intense pain can be expected. It is common for people to seek black market medication options out of desperation, taking a gamble of what they may get (or what could be laced in the street meds).

Before anyone heads down the dangerous winding road of pain medication, please first consider alternative options. Certain exercises like yoga, tai chi, and specific stretching can help with pain, as well as physio, IMS (intra-muscular stimulation), facial release and infrared therapy. Changing our diet often makes a huge difference and if we choose foods that are Botanical COX-2 inhibitors they act like anti-inflammatory meds, without the addictive properties or harmful side effects. 

When I was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis, osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia seven years ago, I started on anti-inflammatory medications because the doctor told me I needed them.  Alternative options are not often ‘supported’ by the medical community.  After a stint on prednisone causing 30 pounds of weight gain, an ulcer and more meds, I decided to research the natural alternatives.  I am happy to say that I have been medication free for almost seven years and I am not in pain.  I have done copious research into how to 'Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet' and I speak on this topic at many of the large health and wellness expos in the Lower Mainland. I will share my research and speech notes with anyone who is dealing with pain, or wants to avoid inflammation. Please email

This column was submitted to The Citizen by Claire Nielsen, a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of

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