Prescription opioids have been a major driver of the opioid epidemic that claimed nearly 60,000 American lives in 2017. Many people who would not otherwise have been exposed to opioid drugs were prescribed excessive amounts of painkillers following surgeries or other medical procedures, developed a physical dependence, then became addicted. Some of these people turned to street drugs, including heroin and fentanyl when they could no longer get the more expensive prescription opioids. Even minor procedures like wisdom teeth extraction have led to opioid dependence. Until recently, it wasn’t uncommon to prescribe a month’s worth of Vicodin following an extraction. Here are some ways of avoiding the trap of opioid addiction following surgery or a medical procedure.
Tell your doctor about your addiction history
If you have a history of substance use problems and you have to get surgery, be sure and tell your doctor about your addiction history. Come up with a plan for managing pain after the procedure. It might involve some combination of alternative pain management, very short prescriptions, and having a reliable friend or family member administer your medication.
Learn about prescribing guidelines.
In response to the opioid epidemic, the CDC issued guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers. Generally speaking, the more potent a drug, the shorter the prescription. Powerful drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin shouldn’t be taken for more than seven days, and preferably less than that, while milder drugs like codeine may be taken longer. The majority of doctors now follow these guidelines but not all, so it’s better to be aware of them. You may want to ask for your prescription to be limited to, say, five pills, just to be safe.
Be clear about your pain.
When talking to your doctor, it’s important to distinguish between soreness, discomfort, and pain. Your doctor has to rely to some extent on what you tell her, if you describe your soreness as pain, she has to take that seriously. However, not all pain is the same and opioids are only meant to treat the worst pain.
Only take opioid painkillers when absolutely necessary.
Most people are used to very low levels of pain and think that any sign of discomfort warrants medication. In reality, pain, discomfort, and soreness are to be expected following surgery or other procedures. If you have a prescription for opioids, only use it if the pain becomes intense. For moderate pain, soreness, or discomfort, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen–Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol, respectively–work very well and are not addictive.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.