If you suffer from chronic pain, you know you must have some relief from the pain to be productive and function. Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Often, opioids are prescribed to ease the pain. But, of course, opioids are highly addictive.
Your body will build up a tolerance to the drugs over time, and then you won’t get the same effect – pain relief – that you had gotten before. There are several things that you can do to avoid opioid addiction while addressing your chronic pain needs.
Take Your Medications Properly
If you are prescribed opioids, you should follow the directions of your doctor. Don’t increase the dosage or the frequency of the dosages on your own. Always follow the directions on the prescription. If it gets to the point that your medication isn’t helping you anymore, tell the doctor.
The doctor might change the dosage or might switch your medications. There are non-opioid medications that are also effective in treating chronic pain, such as some seizure medications, some antidepressants, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
If you start taking your medicine as it is not prescribed, you are abusing the drug and you are heading toward addiction.
Alternative Treatment Options
There are alternative treatment options to help address chronic pain. Physical therapy can help improve mobility and, also, reduce the pain being suffered. Behavioral therapy has also been proven effective when used in conjunction with other treatments. Some other treatments, such as acupuncture, yoga, and massage have high success rates.
There are several available options, and sometimes, they must be used together to get the desired relief. Not all patients are the same and not all treatment options provide the same response for those who use them.
Avoiding Opioid Addiction If Prescribed Opioids
When you are prescribed opioids, you shouldn’t take a pill just in case pain comes on or to prevent it from happening. Most prescriptions for opioids to treat chronic pain say as needed but no closer than 8 hours apart. You should only take opioids when you are suffering from extreme pain. Over-the-counter medications, such as Naproxen, Tylenol, or Motrin can help with soreness and pain management.
If you do suffer intense pain and take an opioid, you should make sure you only take the prescribed dosage. And, don’t increase frequency. If you are still suffering from intense pain four hours later but your pills should not be taken closer than 8 hours apart, you should not take another pill.
If the pain is intense, call your physician’s office. Your doctor will have an after-hours answering service for weekends and evenings, so you will get a call back and some advice on how to address the pain.
Tell Your Doctor Your Concerns
Don’t be hesitant to discuss opioid addiction with your doctor and let him or her know your concerns. Your physician can come up with alternative treatment options and make recommendations specifically for you to help you avoid an addiction. If addiction or abuse of drugs or alcohol runs in your family, be sure you tell your doctor because genetics can come into play.
If your doctor knows your personal medical history as well as your family history, he or she can determine which treatment options will work best for you and your specific situation. If you feel uncomfortable taking opioids at all, voice your concerns and your doctor will come up with a different medication or combination of treatments to provide you with the same relief that you would receive from the opioid prescription.
Distinguishing Between Dependence And Addiction
There is a risk of becoming dependent on medications, so it can be difficult to determine if you are suffering from an addiction or a dependence that is pain-related. Some have such a fear of taking pain medications because they believe they will become addicted, so they avoid using them even when necessary. Dependence is a side effect of using opioids.
It is important to understand the difference. Opioids will bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord as well as other areas of the body. Almost all patients who use opioids for a month or longer will undergo withdrawal symptoms, but only 15% will become addicted. Some patients become so dependent on the drug after taking it so long, they don’t know if they are taking the drugs because they need them or because they are addicted.
If you suspect that you are becoming dependent on a drug, or if you are afraid that you are showing signs of addiction, you should consult with a healthcare provider right away.