Published on: June 10, 2011

Short Film 4 of 50 in the LIFE Before Death documentary series about the global crisis in untreated pain and the dramatic life changing affect palliative care services can deliver to patients and their families around the world.

Opiophobia addresses the very serious consequences surrounding the fear to use opiate medications, such as morphine, for fear of addiction by health workers and patients alike.

Opiate medications, which are medicines derived from opium, are considered by the World Health Organization to be the gold standard in the treatment of moderate to severe pain.

Dr Henry Ddungu (Uganda) and Dr David Morrison (Canada) explain why these fears are unfounded and reiterate that opiates are used safely by health professionals all over the world.

Criminal intent to divert important legal medicines by black market drug traffickers is identified as one of the contributing factors to opiophobia. This fear is reiterated by the testimony of late stage breast cancer patient Carmen (Australia), who at first resisted the opiate medicines that ultimately treated her pain effectively and gave her back her quality of life.

Dr Kathleen Foley (USA) reflects on the real statements of other patients saying they’d rather die of cancer than become an addict. Sadly many patients and doctors still fail to recognize that this is not an either/or situation and that pain can be effectively treated without the fear of addiction.

Dr Charles von Gunten (USA) and Dr Betty Ferrell (USA) explain that pharmacists also fear opiates for other reasons. Their anxiety is generated by robberies targeting essential painkillers for illegal sale.

The resounding message is that patients and doctors fears are uncalled for and that the positive aspects of drugs like morphine deserve far more attention. Dr Charles von Gunten underscores this point with a powerful anecdote and the clear message that; “The drug does not have the power to change people in that way.”

Featuring Dr Henry Ddungu (Uganda), Dr David Morrison (Canada), Dr Charles von Gunten (USA), Dr Betty Ferrell (USA), Dr Kathleen Foley (USA) and Carmen (Australia).

If you’ve missed previous episodes, catch up on the LIFE Before Death website…

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