Who Is To Blame For The Opioid Crisis In Canada?

 The opioid crisis is real and rampant throughout Canada.  With an increase in overdose, how can it not be?  But who is to blame for the opioid crisis?

Opioid addictions are no longer present in just your stereo typical drug abuser on the streets.  It has made it’s way into our homes and no longer discriminates.  Our parents who are prescribed it after surgery, our children taking unused pills out of our medicine cabinets or even our grandparents that are in pain because of a chronic condition.  

Who’s To Blame for Opioid Crisis?

We discussed in our August newsletter that there are many theories such as blaming the drug companies for the marketing of opioids.  Fingers have been pointed in many places.  The truth of the matter is that Canada doesn’t have the proper, consistent tracking of opioid addiction and overdose nationally.  The data and statistics are fragmented and left up to each individual province.  

[ctt template=”5″ link=”Om7a_” via=”no” ]What we do know is that the rate of prescribing opioids increased by 203% in the years 2000-2010.[/ctt] What we do know is that the rate of prescribing opioids increased by 203% in the years 2000-2010.  This is a staggering number of how much is being distributed.

Could Long Medical Wait Lists Be A Factor?

To date, no one has suggested another possibility for the increase in opioid addiction could be from the sky high wait times.  At least not that we’ve come across.  Opioids are meant to be short-term solutions, not long term ones. Studies have shown an addiction can start within 5 continuous days of taking an opioid.  

If you need a knee replacement, the pain may be unbearable. The doctor might put you on an opioid to manage it.  What happens if you have to wait 9 months before you can have your surgery though?  Nine months is not short-term.  Most people are going to believe that if the doctor put them on a medication, then it is the best treatment.  You can still develop a dependence, even if the opioid was legitimately prescribed by the doctor in an appropriate manner.

If you find yourself in a position of requiring long-term solutions because you are on the wait list for your surgery, reach out to us for other options.  We can provide private health care solutions so you don’t have to endure months of pain or risk creating additional health concerns.

Health Vantis




What’s Important In A Hospital?

5 Things An Excellent Hospital Should Have If You Travel For Medical Reasons 

Are you traveling for medical care and wonder what’s important in a hospital?  See below for some things to consider in selecting your hospital of choice.

1.The first place you should start is to research the hospital where you will have the surgery to ensure it is reputable and has appropriate accreditation.  The most recognized one is Joint Commission International (JCI). It is considered a gold standard in global healthcare.  Other organizations such as Accreditation Canada and Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) are a couple of others that are acceptable.

All facilities in the US and Canada are required to have these types of accreditation.  We have come across hospitals in other countries that claim they are ‘accredited’.  This can be misleading to the patient.  The accreditations they list do not have the same standards that the JCI or AAAHC has.

A hospital that has one of these accreditations will have the procedures in place that measure:

⁃patient rights and education

⁃infection control

⁃medication management to prevent medical errors

⁃the process on how the hospital verifies that its doctors, nurses and other staff qualification and competency

⁃what preparations are there for emergencies

⁃how it collects data on its performance and uses that data to improve itself 

Risks associated with a facility that does NOT have the appropriate accreditation could include: 

⁃blood not being screened for HIV or Hepatitis

⁃reuse of syringes

⁃antibody resistance 

⁃poor quality medications

⁃doctors or nurses that are not qualified

⁃higher risk of infection rate

2.Look at the hospital infection, re-admission and mortality rates and compare it to a state, province or country average. This should be available on the hospital website or you can also check with the state or provinces’ department of health. Many of them now require monitoring for serious reportable events or incidents.  

3. How do they handle your medical records and information?  In the US and Canada, hospitals must adhere to standards such as HIPAA and PIPEDA.  This is a law that protects the patients’ data and medical history.  

4. Doctors and nurses that have experience in working with International patients and speak English fluently.  This may seem obvious but not all International hospitals will have English speaking doctors and staff.  This is incredibly important because you need to be able to understand everything being said.  There needs to be an English speaking guide to get you to and from where you need to be in the hospital as well as have an English speaking doctor and nurse that will be treating you.  

5. Know what their emergency protocol is should there be one.  What precautions do they take and what type of life saving measures do they have?  Are they partnered with another larger hospital?  Is their equipment up to date?

Contact Health Vantis for more information on how to choose the right facility/hospital for you!  Your safety is important to us and we verify all 5 of these points for you.

Health Vantis




How Yoga Helped Minimize My Back Pain

Last November I had a L5 Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF).  After 20+ years of being treated for back pain, I ran out of options because there was simply no disk left.  The cortisone and facet joint block injections no longer worked.  Anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy were a thing of the past. After failed rhizotomies, long discussions with my Spinal Orthopedic Doctor and a second opinion, surgery was my final option.  

Prior to this decision, I had to deal with the pain. I always had some kind of physical exercise as part of my lifestyle but it became increasingly harder.  When you have an injury or disk issue, your other muscles will sometimes overcompensate for the area where the pain is.  In my case, it was my low back, which meant that my entire torso was always tight and sore.  I always had knots in my shoulders and neck even though the source of my pain was coming from the low back.  

Several people had recommended I try yoga.  This Type A personality had always steered clear from yoga in the past because if I had time to work out, I wanted to be dripping in sweat. I thought the only way to achieve that was by doing cardio.  Otherwise, I didn’t feel like I worked out.  I didn’t think you could break a sweat in yoga but thought, what the heck, I’ve tried everything else, why not.

The Down Low To Down Dog

The first day I went to hot yoga, I was skeptical and feeling a little out of place.  It was so quiet in there you could hear a needle drop.  I remember thinking, am I in the wrong room?  Why is no one talking?  Isn’t there pre-workout chatter and gossip?  It was all women, and maybe 1 lonely man, most of which were just laying on their mat.  Were they sleeping, getting a power nap?  I thought, these people are too serious and this is going to be a waste of my time.  But I mimicked what they were doing, rolled my mat out on the floor and lied down.  I tried to pretend I was napping too but kept peeking out the corner of my eyes every few seconds to see what the others were doing.  Nope, still napping.

The instructor finally came in with her soft, soothing voice and began the class.  I diligently followed her instructions, all the while, looking around to make sure I was doing things right.  I definitely felt like a fish out of water but if I looked like one, no one seemed to notice or care.  They all appeared to be focused on what they were doing and not giving the new girl questionable stares or that silent criticism.  So, I tried to focus on what the instructor did and really take it in.  

Lesson Learned

After maybe 30 minutes of concentrating on my breathing and pushing my flexibility to the max, I looked down and noticed the backs of my hands had beads of sweat on them.  What?!  I didn’t even know you could sweat there.  When we got to the end of our 60-minute class, I realized I was completely drenched in sweat.  So, you can really can sweat in yoga!  I made a mental note to bring a towel the next time.

I used to think I was pretty flexible, until that first day in the yoga studio.  What I envisioned my body doing and what it could actually do were two different things.  I guess all of those years of my back tensing up really changed things.  And you know what?  I really did feel better, even after 1 class.  I continued to go and after a few sessions, I felt like I could stand taller, had more energy and while it didn’t eliminate my lower back pain altogether, it did improve the rest of my back, neck and shoulder pain.  My entire body felt better than it had in years.  

I also figured out why it was so quiet when people arrived.  I came to enjoy the peace and quiet.  It gave me an opportunity to clear my mind, something I never concentrated on when I did cardio with earbuds blasting fast music.  

For other benefits to yoga, see the article we posted in our August Newsletter here!

Health Vantis




August 2018 Newsletter

International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug 31st)

History of Opioids

Opioids have been around for thousands of years.  It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that regulation was put on the distribution and use of them.  From 1920-1950 in an attempt to prevent addiction, it was primarily used for terminally ill patients, many with cancer, that had acute pain, rather than chronic pain.  In the mid-1970’s other types of opioids such as Percocet and Vicodin were being developed and distributed.  Health Canada approved OxyContin to be prescribed for moderate and severe pain control in 1996. 

In 1998, Purdue Pharma spent $207 Million on the marketing of OxyContin.  This came with a push for physicians to prescribe opioids to patients for all types of pain such as back pain or fibromyalgia, not just for terminally ill or cancer patients.  By the early to mid-2000’s, the abuse and misuse of opioid products containing Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, along with brand names such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and Lortab doubled. 

The pharmaceutical companies began producing alternate formulations of extended-release and immediate release properties meant to deter abuse, however, none of these formulations prevented abuse.  Abusers quickly learned it could be crushed and broken down for immediate effects.  By 2010, heroin use, also an opioid, and overdose began increasing and in 2013 there was a significant increase in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly manufactured fentanyl (IMF).

How Overdose Occurs

Opioids are highly addictive and even infrequent use can lead to dependency. Many opioid abusers progress their way to heroin because it’s cheaper.  Habitual or prolonged use can cause changes in the pain center part of your brain and prevent your body from naturally producing endorphins, which manage your pain center.  Tolerance to the euphoric effect of opioids that people become addicted to develops faster than the actual tolerance, creating a dangerous situation.  People will take more of it to get that high, however, high doses slow voluntary breathing, putting the individual into respiratory distress.  Fast acting injections of opioid fentanyl can cause the diaphragm and other muscles in the chest to seize up, eventually stopping your heart.  

Individuals that are in recovery for opioid addiction and relapse, have a higher rate of overdose.  The reason for this is because their brain thinks they can start where they left off on the amount taken, however, the body has detoxed and the tolerance is no longer there.  It becomes a shock to the system and can cause overdose.

Effects of Opioid Use: Who’s to Blame?

Today, Canada is the world’s second highest per-capita consumer of prescription painkillers.  The USA holds first place.  So who is to blame or hold accountable here?  The pharmaceutical companies promoting false advertising about the safety of it?  Doctors knowing from a clinical perspective the risks, yet still prescribing it?  The system who leaves their people in chronic pain waiting months, sometimes years, to have a surgery that would alleviate their pain?  Limited resources for those suffering from addiction and availability for prompt treatment programs?  It’s hard to say.  My opinion is that it is probably a little bit of everything.  

In 2007, Purdue Pharma acknowledged the marketing of OxyContin was misleading and paid $634.5 Million to settle criminal and civil charges.  They have stopped marketing opioids in the United States altogether due to mounting lawsuits.  Purdue’s Canadian operation has not made a similar admission of their wrongdoing and the marketing still continues in Canada.    

[ctt template=”2″ link=”E5aZR” via=”no” ]The rate of opioid use increased by 203% from the years 2000-2010.  In 2017 there were 3.987 apparent opioid-related deaths, 92% unintentional, reported by the Government of Canada. (1)[/ctt] The rate of opioid use increased by 203% from the years 2000-2010.  In 2017 there were 3.987 apparent opioid-related deaths, 92% unintentional, reported by the Government of Canada. (1)  This is a huge red light of just how dangerous usage in any form is.  Yet, leaders do not know why it is on the rise or how to combat it.  

The Canadian government has been trying to make changes to streamline things and have more transparent regulations.  Putting guidelines and regulations on pharmaceutical companies marketing and advertising opioids appears to be the place to start.

What To Do?

Health Vantis works with individuals that are put on long wait lists for surgery.  Many of our clients will have been in pain for months, often times years.  Unfortunately, the only way they can function is to mask the pain with medication and often times, an opioid will be prescribed.  These are people with chronic pain, not acute pain.  As indicated earlier, opioids were initially used for acute pain in terminally ill patients.  The dangers of being on these medications with chronic pain increase your odds of addiction, not to mention unintentional overdose.  No one wants to be in pain, myself included.  If you are put in a position like this, don’t just accept a prescription until your surgery date.  Explore your options to avoid an unnecessary risk.  

In the workplace, employers are very aware of how much mental illness can affect their bottom line, however, substance abuse is often overlooked.  For ways to incorporate this into your business plan and spot possible addiction, please check out these websites:




    1.     https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/national-report-apparent-opioid-related-deaths-released-june-2018.html


Benefits of Yoga 

When we think of yoga we often visualize pretzel shaped poses and movements you didn’t realize a body could do.  We know yoga provides for an improvement in flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance but what other benefits can yoga have?  Let’s explore some benefits yoga provides for chronic illnesses we may not have considered:

        Fertility – Reducing stress levels, better blood flow to reproductive organs, improvement in organ and hormone function.

        Back Pain – Greater flexibility to improve spinal movement and muscle strength to hold your core better.  Utilizing your core muscles protects the back from being used.

        Heart Disease – Can help reduce arterial plaque and overall heart health.

        Asthma – Breathing practice is essential in yoga.  It helps ease the symptoms of asthma.

        Memory Booster – Releasing negative thoughts and tension improve your ability to organize your thoughts.  This allows for improved cognitive function.

        Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – Improves fatigue with the building of muscles and coordination. 

        Arthritis – Can improve pain and disability with slow, gentle movement.  Hot yoga also helps reduce muscle tightness allowing for deeper stretching.

        Insomnia – Focusing on breathing can calm your mind from the hamster wheel of thoughts.  Certain positions such as lying on your back with feet on a wall yield better circulation for relaxation.

        Sexual Performance – Yoga increases blood flow to the genital area, which can improve sexual desire, arousal, and performance.

        Depression or PTSD – Practicing meditation and mindfulness results in higher serotonin levels (the happy hormone) and oxytocin (the bonding hormone).  It teaches you how to cope by easing stress and shifting your awareness to other positive thoughts, sensations, and emotions yoga produces.

        Migraines – Hunching over your computer or cell phone can cause tightness in the neck and misalignment.  Correcting with yoga poses has shown a reduction in migraines or less painful ones.

        Hypertension (HTN) – Stress is the leading cause of hypertension (HTN).  Learning how to reduce this and simplify your mind produces great results.

        Fatigue – Yoga gives yourself a boost in natural energy and motivation that lasts longer than any energy drink or caffeine.  

There are probably many more benefits to yoga that can help a chronic disease not listed here.  The clarity you get from a clear mind can increase your creativity, focus, motivation, confidence and overall health.  Being able to tackle all of these with one form of exercise is what makes it so popular today.  With over 100 different types of yoga, there should be no problem in finding which one suits you.



The Cost of Depression and Anxiety In The Workplace

The Conference Board of Canada reported in 2016 that the Canadian economy lost almost $50 billion a year in productivity due to depression and anxiety. (1)  It accounts for about 30 percent of all short- and long-term disability claims, with the value of these claims ranging from $15 billion to $33 billion annually. The report goes on to say that almost a quarter of Canadians living with mental health issues are unable to work full or part-time.  It adds, if better treatments and supports were available to Canadians, the economy could see up to 352,000 of those with depression or anxiety enter the workforce as fully functional employees each year until 2035. (2) Wrap your brain around those figures!

True Absenteeism?

It has been increasingly evident that absenteeism is not the major factor when looking at a loss of productive time.  It is thought to be presenteeism, which means ‘the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc., often resulting in reduced productivity.’  

So why are depression and anxiety so much more prevalent today?  Some experts would say the increase is ‘garbage’ because of 2 possibilities.  1) It has become socially more acceptable due to the level of education and awareness available to us now and no longer taboo like it was in the past and 2) Not everyone taking an anti-depressants has a ‘true’ depression but rather a high level of stress that warrants the doctor to put them on a ‘chill pill’.  I remember a Medical Director I worked with once joked that they should just put Prozac in the water.  Regardless, it is real and it does affect the workplace.

As a society, we’ve become lazy, entitled and lost the mentality of ‘what can I do for your company’  to ‘what are you going to do for me if I work here’.  We spend less time outdoors, rely on our phones or computers for communication as opposed to actual human interaction, we overschedule ourselves and our children with extra activities, and spend less family time together.  All of these things contribute to our well-being and it trickles over into our place of work.  When you spend 8 hours+ of your day working, it’s bound to.

What Can The Employer Do?

Social norms and competitiveness in attracting top talent force businesses to respond to having such programs to keep their employees happy and healthy.  After all, if you take care of your employee, they will take care of your customer.  Offering an extension to the Employee Assistance Program such as a service like Ringside MD that offers in-house access to doctors at any time.  This gives the employee an opportunity to talk to a professional allowing for openness and candor as opposed to the HR Manager, where one might hold back.  These programs are a cost to the employer, however, when you look at how much money you save by having a healthy, productive employee, your bottom line will also be healthier.  

    1.     http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-economy-depression-anixety-1.3744300 

    2.    http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-economy-depression-anixety-1.3744300 https://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=8245 

The Benefits of Dancing

The Benefits of Dancing For Physical and Mental Work Out

Dancing with the Stars has become a popular, well-loved show that has inspired others to get moving.  Dancing not only provides entertainment for a person but can also be a great outlet for stress relief and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  It is being utilized in gyms such as the ever so fun Zumba and in private studios.  But hey, you don’t need a formal place to dance.  It can be done right in the privacy of your own home.  You do not need to be a professional to dance.  All you have to do is crank the music and MOVE!  Below we will provide some benefits to dancing.

Improved Memory

Our cognitive function, hence memory, begins to decline as we age.  A study done by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience did a study on ways to combat this.  The researchers studied adults ranging from 60-80’s who showed no signs of memory loss or impairment.  Participants were assigned 1 of three activities:  stretching, brisk walking, dance classes or balance training and monitored for a 6 month period.  The individuals that were assigned dancing practiced and learned choreography 3 times a week.  The goal was to see if or how aerobic activity protects our brains from aging. (1)

At the end of the study, all participants had a brain scan.  These were compared to scans done prior to the study began.  The dancers fared better than the other groups and had less deterioration in the brain.  It seems logical as dancing requires learning, memory, and combined cognitive and physical training. (2)

Another study found in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older. (3)

Improvement in Balance and Coordination

Dancing requires a great deal of coordination and balance.  Various athletes, such as football players, take dancing or ballet classes.  This is to improve their balance, flexibility, structure, and posture.  The benefit of creating better balance and coordination is to prevent falls.  [ctt template=”5″ link=”7e2Jw” via=”no” ]Per CDC  ‘1 in 4 Americans aged 65+ have a fall each year.  Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the most common non-fatal trauma-related hospital admission among older adults. [/ctt] Per CDC  ‘1 in 4 Americans aged 65+ have a fall each year.  Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the most common non-fatal trauma-related hospital admission among older adults. Incorporating dance into your exercise routine will improve your agility, balance, physical strength and muscle tone.’ (4)

Social Interaction and Physical Touch

We all love to be touched.  It can send endorphins in a similar way that exercise can.  Dancing provides this as well as social interaction.  Being able to interact with others and have fun lowers your stress level, allows for making friendships and being socially engaged, supports a stronger immune system and makes for a fun time.  Something as simple as clasping hands reduces stress-related activity in a brain area called the hypothalamus.  This lowers the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, within your system.

Weight Loss

Losing weight is a tough and miserable process, at least it always has been for me.  It normally involves eliminating all of the foods you love, discipline and countless hours in the gym, none of which I like.  Doing this long term is grueling and makes it easy to fall off the wagon.  Dance is fun, it’s social and doesn’t have to be the same monotonous thing.  It provides variety, little skill and gets your heart rate up quickly.

Gyms now have incorporated dance classes such as Zumba or Hip Hop Dance into their class schedules.  There are also plenty of private facilities teaching ballroom or salsa dancing.  Being able to shake your bum with others makes the time go quickly and before you know it, you are drenched with sweat and burning calories.   It can help tone your body as you are using all of the muscles in your body.

Increase in Energy

Any kind of exercise provides for an improvement in your energy, and dancing is one of them.  Dancing can be as light or heavy of a work out as you want.  Moving all of our body parts wake us up and ready for the day.  You get a healthy sweat that will release your natural ‘feel good’ endorphins to set your day off right.  Listening to upbeat music also improves our moods and makes us have positive thoughts, thus increasing our energy.


Health Vantis





  1.  https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00059/full
  2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00059/full
  3. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022252
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/index.html