LETTER: Chronic pain and overdoses: young men need help

From reader Cathy Scott-May

As we struggle to understand the roots of the fentanyl crisis, we might consider that four out of five deaths from fentanyl last year were males. Why? Researchers suggest that more males use harder drugs and do so alone, leaving them without help if they overdose.

By many measures, men hold most of the power in society, yet all is not well in the kingdom of males. In addition to deaths from fentanyl, most alcohol dependent people are males, over 75 per cent of people without homes are male, and 80 per cent of suicide deaths are males.

Unless we understand the real complexity of the situation, the fentanyl crisis will continue as a tragic symptom of a larger malaise.

Researchers suggest that the path to fentanyl for many males is linked to pain resulting from injuries in the workplace, through sports or other physical pursuits, but also mental and emotional trauma.

Chronic pain in young males is, unfortunately, something our family has come to know a lot about but fortunately our son shuns all use of drugs. It has been shocking to learn that many other families in our area have quietly struggled to support a young male plagued by chronic pain.

Why had we not heard of this? And why in 2017 do we so often hear — including from some health care professionals — that young males can tough it out?

Having supported male youth leadership initiatives, I learned that some within our schools, community organizations and businesses are uncomfortable with an exclusive focus on males. Female-specific programs are more accepted and continue to be needed.

The fentanyl crisis, however, shows our community needs to examine our attitudes towards, and support for, males.

There is an immediate need to save the lives of those who overdose on fentanyl, compassionately support addicts and educate recreational drug users. Tragically, many who survive a fentanyl overdose will experience brain damage, which only compounds their problems and creates a huge burden for society.

To break the cycle will require, among other things, supporting conversations about what is happening with males in our society.

Cathy Scott-May


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