For years now, we’ve been unable to turn on the news or read a newspaper without seeing headlines about the opioid crisis. It seems like there’s always a new drug trend or a new lawsuit or a new piece of legislation, to the point where we’re almost desensitized to it all if we aren’t personally affected by addiction. Still, most people equate opioids with addiction, as though it’s impossible to use them safely and we shouldn’t even try. It’s true that they do have a great potential for abuse, and that some people are at more of a risk for addiction than others, but that doesn’t mean that opioids aren’t sometimes the best option. You just have to learn how to take them properly and – along with your doctor – keep a close eye out for any signs of dependence.
For acute pain – the kind that only lasts for a few days like you’d experience immediately after an injury or surgery – opioids aren’t necessarily the best idea. In a lot of cases, over the counter medications or alternative treatments like acupuncture can be very effective. Even if your doctor wants to prescribe you an opioid, you can always ask for something different. If you do take opioids for short-term pain, it’s recommended that you limit it to as few days as you can manage, ideally under five, as that’s when dependence can begin to develop.
For some people, opioids are necessary. People with cancer, lupus, advanced arthritis, and other very painful conditions sometimes can’t find relief anywhere else. If you have to take them long term, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions exactly. Don’t take more pills than you’re supposed to or take them more frequently than directed. Stick to an around the clock schedule. Some people believe that by holding off until the pain is unbearable and taking fewer pills than recommended they might prevent them from becoming addicted, but it can actually have the opposite effect. If you allow yourself to get to the point of agony and then take an opioid, you’re going to associate that medication with such a profound sense of relief that you could become more likely to develop an addiction.
You might want to tell a loved one that you’re taking an opioid so they can help keep you accountable. If you live with someone (who you can trust with your medication), you might consider asking them to keep track of your use or even dispense them to you.
Before you do start taking an opioid, ask yourself if you have any of the risk factors for addiction. These include: a family history of substance abuse, a personal history with substance abuse, a history of mental illness like depression or anxiety, having an addictive or risk-taking personality, and dealing with a lot of stress at home or work.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.