3 Things To Consider Before Taking Narcotic Pain Medication
When your body hurts, you want the pain to stop as soon as possible. Opioid-based pain killer medications are now a commonly prescribed antidote to meet patients’ chronic pain needs, and as the number of prescriptions have increased there has been a significant rise in the number of opioid-related hospitalizations, injuries, overdoses and deaths. If you are considering seeing your doctor about prescription pain medication to treat your chronic pain, here are three things to consider before filling your prescription.
- They may not work. Opioid-based pain medications are primarily prescribed by doctors for short-term pain management needs and for those with terminal illnesses, like cancer. As opioids are increasingly prescribed for long-term pain management, new research suggests that these medications may be ineffective or even detrimental to the health of those with chronic pain. One European study of over 10,000 people indicated that those who utilized opioid-based medications to manage their pain reported a lower overall quality of life. There is also cause to believe that opioid medication abuse can contribute to a condition known as hyperalgesia that actually increases the user’s sensitivity to painful stimuli.
- The risks might outweigh the gains. Opioid medications have a high risk for addiction, with many individuals eventually supplementing or switching to heroin when their prescription ends or when they need a bigger high. Anyone with a personal or family history of drug abuse is especially at risk of misusing an opioid prescription. Ultimately the risks for potential addiction must be weighed carefully by prospective patients against the likelihood of opioid’s effectiveness in their case as well as worst case scenarios.
- There may be better alternatives. It may be counter-intuitive, but one of the most effective methods of managing chronic pain is the use of over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Motrin. Without the risk of addiction and the intense side effects of opioid medications on the body, many over the counter medications can be used safely over much longer periods of time without risk of injury or dependence. Other holistic treatments including physical rehabilitation or acupuncture may also be able to remedy some of the effects of chronic pain, possibly removing the need for medication altogether for certain conditions.
One more piece of advice:
If you are in pain and it’s not going away it would be best to see a pain management specialist. This is the doctor who is directly skilled in treating this specialty area (the same as the orthopedist for your knee injury). The data suggests that a family doctor is at least five times more likely to write opioid pain prescriptions than a pain management specialist. and is least familiar with modern alternatives or therapies beyond use of narcotics.