Opioid medications, which include oxycodone (Oxycontin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine, are effective but highly addictive painkillers. It’s possible to develop a dependence on these medications after just five days, yet many doctors still prescribe them for long term use. Knowing the potential dangers of opioid drugs and the number of people who are addicted to them, what should you do if your doctor wants to prescribe you an opioid for pain?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just because someone is a doctor doesn’t mean they’re infallible, and you have a right to have a say in your own health care. Here are some questions to consider asking your doctor if they suggest a prescription opioid.
What are you prescribing an opioid instead of some other medication? Some doctors, even knowing the dangers, give patients opioids because they think it’s what people want. One study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that emergency room doctors often report fearing that their patient satisfaction scores will drop if they don’t offer what they consider maximum pain relief. These patient satisfaction scores may be tied to funding for their clinic or hospital and to the doctors’ performance reviews. Make it clear that you’d rather try something less addictive first.
What are the risks? Don’t just ask about the risks in general, but the dangers to you in particular. For example, discuss any personal or family history of addiction, mental health issues you may be dealing with, whether you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, and if you drink or take other drugs that might interact badly with an opioid.
What can you expect? Find out how long they intend for you to stay on this medication. Is it long term or short term? What should you do if you want to stop taking them? Ask about any possible side effects as well as how effective the pain relief is likely to be and decide if it’s worth it.
What other options are there? There are plenty of alternatives to opioid painkillers. There are over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, heat and ice, daily exercise, physical therapy, and even yoga or meditation. Lifestyle changes can be hard, but when compared to the possible effects of becoming dependent on an opioid, they might be a more attractive option.
Is there proof that this medication will actually help my condition? Studies have shown that opioids are not always the most effective pain reliever. The Minneapolis Veteran’s Administration Health Care System and the University of Minnesota studied the effectiveness of opioids for long term pain and found that opioids can improve pain slightly more than a placebo, or sugar pill, in the short term, but there was no evidence of effectiveness over long periods of time.
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