Opioid use is currently a huge topic in America. An estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers and the amount of deaths related to opioid use account for half a million since 2000.
One of the main reasons for the problem stems from the unfortunate fact that doctors didn’t think there was a risk of addiction associated with opioids used for acute conditions. So prescriptions were handed out liberally for folks with legitimate pain. Research has now shown that the risk of addiction is high even with short term use. The medical community is wiser but it’s still important as a patient to understand the risk.
Harvard Health provides a great list of questions to ask your health provider before accepting pain meds:
Is this medication an opioid?
Drug names are difficult to remember and easily confused, so you’ll want to determine whether a painkiller is an opioid.
Is this safe to take with my other medications?
Opioids aren’t advisable if you’re taking a benzodiazepine — a class of drug used to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Are there any non-opioid pain relievers I could take instead?
Some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like celecoxib (Celebrex) and diclofenac (Voltaren), which are more potent than nonprescription NSAIDs, are available by prescription. Although these medications may have more troublesome side effects than over-the-counter NSAIDs, they won’t lead to dependence or addiction.
Is this the lowest dose possible?
You don’t want to take a higher dose than you need for pain relief. It’s better to start with a small dose and ask your doctor to increase it if necessary.
May I have fewer pills?
Take the lowest dose possible for the briefest time possible. If you still have unmanageable pain once you’ve finished your prescription, you can discuss further options, including continued opioid use, with your doctor.
How should I taper off the medication?
You may need to gradually reduce the amount you take to avoid withdrawal symptoms like muscle pain and nausea.
Should I have some naloxone (Narcan) on hand?
This drug, which rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, is available by prescription as a nasal spray.
Managing pain doesn’t need to have the additional concern of prescription risk attached to it. The CDC now recommends three days of use of opioids for most conditions of pain. Like many drugs of this nature the effectiveness wanes after too much use. Sticking to a short term regimen makes sense. Alternative therapies, like physical therapy, are also widely used to help relieve pain. Consider all of your options before you accept a prescription automatically.
Broad Street can help. We provide Personal Assistants who can help manage medication and overall health care and awareness. Through our Professional Network we can help you find the right resources like advocates to attend appointments with you and doctors to help answer questions or identify areas of concern. We provide home care in Wilmette, Illinois, the North Shore area of Chicago. For more information, please call 847.728.0134.