During the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies assured medical providers that opioid-based painkillers posed no threat when it came to addiction and dependency. They were wrong and millions of Americans have been paying the price ever since — in 2019 alone, 50,000 people died from opioid-involved overdoses.
Dr. Daniel Headrick and the team here at Tres Vistas Recovery have done our part to pick up the pieces of opioid misuse, helping patients restore their lives after developing substance use disorders.
While we understand that opioids can play a valuable role in helping to manage pain, it’s important to also understand the clear and present danger that comes with taking opioids. In the following, we review a few steps you can take to both manage your pain and avoid addiction and dependency.
Communicate with your doctor
If your doctor recommends opioids to alleviate pain, be sure to discuss with them any concerns you might have. For example, if you drink alcohol, it’s important to disclose how much you drink as you’ll need to curb your alcohol intake while taking these drugs.
As well, if you have certain health conditions, such as sleep apnea or obesity, you’re more at risk for developing complications from using opioids.
Open lines of communication with your doctor are paramount so that they can safely guide you through your pain relief while minimizing your risks for serious complications, such as an opioid use disorder.
Opioids and your mental health
If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, it’s important to discuss these conditions with your prescribing doctor. Researchers have found that people with mental health or substance abuse problems are more likely to misuse or abuse opioids. Some of these risk factors include:
- A history of depression or anxiety
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Family history of substance use disorders
- Personal history of a substance use disorder
Here again, we underscore the importance of being upfront with your doctor about any issues that may influence your ability to take opioids safely, especially if you’re a veteran of a substance use disorder.
Use as prescribed and only when needed
As we mentioned, between 21% and 29% of people who take opioid-based painkillers misuse the drugs, which means taking more than prescribed or taking them more often than indicated. The prescribed medications are for pain and you should follow that lead only — if you’re in pain and it’s time for a dose, taking your medication is prudent. If, however, it’s time for your next dose, but your pain is manageable, perhaps you can wait.
In fact, if your prescription says take “1-2 pills” at certain intervals, start with the lowest dose first to see if that remedies the discomfort.
Dealing with chronic pain
Opioids are not a good solution for chronic pain because of the risks of developing a substance use disorder, so we recommend that you try our pain management program instead. Here at our practice, we help patients find alternatives for managing long-term pain, such as buprenorphine.
In addition to finding better medications for your pain, we work with you on more sustainable methods for managing chronic pain, which might involve therapy, relaxation techniques, and certain lifestyle changes.
If you have any questions or concerns about taking opioids safely, please don’t hesitate to contact our office San Juan Capistrano, to set up a consultation.