Addiction to prescription pain medication has grown to epidemic levels because physicians are prescribing pain medications for more people. Unlike some illicit drugs, opioid pain medications serve an important medical purpose. They are often prescribed after surgery or a serious injury to help a patient recover.
When an individual abuses these medications, it is possible to become addicted, which is personally and professionally devastating. As a result, many individuals are reluctant to take these powerful medications for chronic pain relief. This can lead to a different set of problems that stem from the insufficient treatment of pain, such as mood disorders, depression and a diminished quality of life.
If you have a real need for pain relief, it’s critical that you speak with your doctor about ways to limit your risk and prevent addiction.
Weigh Your Risk Factors
This includes a previous history of addiction to prescription or illicit drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco use. You should also consider your family history. Mood, anxiety and thought disorders, such as depression, bipolar disease and schizophrenia, are also risk factors. If you have a high number of predisposing risk factors, ask your doctor about alternative pain management strategies.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
One of the best ways to avoid becoming addicted is to follow your doctor’s instructions. Take your medication only as directed by your physician or pharmacist. Follow and do not exceed the recommended dosage level. If your pain is not controlled by the dosage of the medication prescribed, do not increase your dosage without consulting with your physician.
Determine If You Still Need the Pain Medication
Let your doctor know when you are no longer in pain. This will enable you to stop taking the medication. You may require a lower dose. It is also possible that another less addictive medication can be substituted. Speak with your doctor about all medications that you are taking. Some drug combinations can have adverse side effects. When you feel you no longer need the medication, talk with your doctor for advice of how to minimize potential withdrawal symptoms. Experiencing withdrawal from medication does not mean that you are addicted, however, certain drugs should not be stopped immediately and instead should be tapered off. Only your physician can direct you on the best course of action when it’s time to reduce or stop your medication.
Do Not Avoid Medications If Required
If you are experiencing pain, take your medications as recommended. Delaying may cause the pain to worsen requiring you to take a larger dose in order to relieve the discomfort. Exceeding the recommended dosage increases the potential for addiction.
Use the Medication for Its Intended Purpose
Do not use pain medications as a coping mechanism for other issues in your life. If you are taking pain medications for their intended purpose in the prescribed dose, you are using it as directed. Taking the medication for another reason, such as easing daily stress, is a sign of a prescription drug abuse.
Your doctor may be able to prescribe another type of medication that has a lower risk of addiction. You may also consider over-the-counter pain relievers. Along with other types of drugs, you may engage in holistic pain management strategies like physical therapy, acupuncture and tai chi.
Learn the Signs of Addiction
Early signs of prescription drug abuse include not taking the medication as directed or taking it for reasons other than it was prescribed. Other warnings signs to watch for are if the drug is causing disruptions in your life, such as missing work or neglecting family members. Another reason to ask for help is if you find yourself being less than fully honest with your doctor or loved ones.
Opioid painkillers can be a valid course of treatment and may be the only medication that can ease your discomfort. Your doctor will work with you to minimize the risk of addiction. Awareness is the key to properly managing potentially addictive medications as well as determining ways to stay sober and prevent dependency on these sometimes dangerous drugs.
As always, if you or a loved one are struggling with prescription drug abuse, contact an addiction specialist for help today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.