Have you ever watched the news or picked up a paper and seen headline after headline about the opioid crisis and wondered – should we even have these drugs? Are there any people out there who actually need them so badly that another medication or treatment wouldn’t suffice? There are many people who refuse to take strong painkillers, and in fact some people won’t even take over the counter drugs like ibuprofen, but does there come a point where you simply have no choice?
One situation where experts say we can cut back on opioid abuse is by not prescribing them long term or for chronic pain. The odds that you’ll develop an addiction increase the longer you take an opioid. After only five days of using an opioid painkiller, the odds are that you’ll still be on it a year later. It’s recommended that if opioids are prescribed for acute pain – meaning the kind you’d have immediately after an injury or after having surgery – the prescription be for as few days as possible, ideally only two or three. Part of the problem with the opioid epidemic is that doctors would prescribe weeks’ worth of pills for a condition that only lasted a couple days. Those pills would then sit in people’s medicine cabinets, where they could be easily accessed and taken improperly. You can always talk to your doctor about only prescribing a small number.
You should be aware if you have any risk factors for dependence. You might want to do what you can to avoid taking opioids if you have any of the following factors:
- Family history of substance abuse
- Personal history of substance abuse
- Young age
- History of criminal activity or legal problems including DUIs
- Regular contact with high-risk people or high-risk environments
- Problems with past employers, family members and friends (mental disorder)
- Risk-taking or thrill-seeking behavior
- Heavy tobacco use
- History of severe depression or anxiety
- Stressful circumstances
- Prior drug or alcohol rehabilitation
Women are also more likely to develop an addiction to opioids, because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and may be more biologically predisposed to addiction.
If you’re living with chronic pain, there are other things you can do besides take opioids. There are over the counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, less traditional remedies such as massages and acupuncture, and even treatments that use radio waves or electrical signals to target pain. There are injections that you can take if you have nerve or joint pain that can help for up to a few months. You could also try physical therapy, or if possible, look into surgery for correcting any physical problems that cause pain.
In the end, this is a discussion that you need to have with your doctor, taking into account your pain level, its cause, and your risk for addiction. Opioids are necessary for some people, but for others there are certainly less dangerous alternatives.
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.