Pharmacist, Jody Cunningham

by: Carole Fawcett (

According to Pharmacist Jodi Cunningham, all medical professionals are becoming more aware of the addiction potential of prescribed opiates.  As she states, “Some people are at greater risk than others as they have some of the factors that may predispose them to addiction.” 

Jodi says she sees that people are “more aware of the potential for addiction and that there is a hesitancy to use prescription opiates as often for treatment of pain.  When they are used, it is usually for a more limited duration.”

She says that when a medical professional becomes concerned about a patient becoming addicted, that there should be other alternatives offered.  “When you take away medications that someone has potentially become dependent on, without offering alternatives for pain management (as an example), you increase the risk of that person seeking out more dangerous opiates.  We must not be a part of the problem by cutting off pain medications without offering a step-down plan. (easing them off slowly.…transitioning to less risky pain medications and implementing other strategies to manage pain.)”

Health Canada has stated that whenever a patient is given an opiate, they must be provided with an information sheet.  As well, prescription opiates now have a bright yellow sticker attached to them that reads, “Opioids can cause DEPENDENCE, ADDICTION and OVERDOSE.”

Jodi further states, “We have to be diligent about monitoring and helping patients know and recognize the signs of addiction.  We must not avoid discussing this issue and have open lines of communication. We need strategies to lessen the risk and stop the losses that we have seen with opioid overdoses.  Again, we need to focus on the underlying issues and provide increased access to services to help remove the stigma.”