MONTREAL – If opiate medication is well managed and proper medical follow-ups are done, these drugs can do more good than harm, insists the Quebec Chronic Pain Association (AQDC).

The organization says it wants to raise awareness about the usefulness of opiates when properly prescribed.

The AQDC argues people with chronic pain face great stigmatization for using opioids during a time of great crisis in Canada.

Director of the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) pain clinic, Dr. Aline Boulanger, points out that the opioid crisis has not only scared users, but also doctors.

“The current crisis around opioid use and the deaths that have occurred in recent years have created a sense of fear and guilt for patients with chronic conditions,” Boulanger told The Canadian Press.

“For some patients, it has become taboo, a secret that we must not talk about too much because we will be judged as addicts.”

She says some doctors have chosen not to prescribe the drugs, have tried to reduce dosages or even weaned patients who take opioids.

In addition, Boulanger says many patients living with chronic diseases are already misunderstood by their employers, family and friends and are sometimes perceived as weak when it comes to tolerating pain.

"Depending on the studies, it is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of people who have chronic pain will experience a depressive state,” she said.

“Of course, not all of these patients will have suicidal thoughts or even consider suicide.”

Boulanger also points out that chronic pain can cause intense stress.

“They could feel their life is completely messed up, they may not be able to work and this could create fear about money no longer coming in,” she said.

“They can no longer have fun with their kids or go out with the family, so it creates a lot of upheavals.”

The AQDC estimates more than 1.5 million Quebecers -- or 20 percent of the population -- suffer from chronic pain.

"Not all chronic sufferers need opiates or consume them," said Boulanger.

“When the usual treatments fail or are not available, opiates are a perfectly acceptable, legitimate choice, as long as they are accompanied by well-trained people.”

The organization is rolling out a campaign for Chronic Pain Week, from Nov. 3 to 9. It will be live online, in some bus shelters and on the radio.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 4, 2019.