How To Use Opioids Safely To Avoid Addiction

PR Newswire PR Newswire • October 8, 2019

Drugs such as oxycodone are effective for pain but also highly addictive. More than 2 million Americans each year are affected by prescription opioid misuse. If your doctor has written you a prescription, what steps can you take to avoid addiction?

1. Tell Your Doctor About Your Medical History

With addictive medications, it pays to play it safe. Don’t hide anything when talking to your doctor about opioid pain relievers, even in the case of emergencies such as broken bones. There are three main things your doctor needs to be clear about: your personal medical history, any family history of addiction and the medications you’re currently taking.sadf

The risks of opioid addiction outweigh the treatment benefits for some people; if you or someone in your family has a history of drug addiction or alcoholism, opioids may not be safe. Other conditions that increase the risk of addiction include severe depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia. You also need to talk to your doctor about your regular medications, including supplements. Certain types of medicine for anxiety, sleep or allergies may increase the risk of accidental opioid overdose.

2. Weigh Your Options

The only person who can make a choice about the best pain relief is you. It’s a good idea to analyze the pros and cons of using an opioid pain reliever before starting. Ask your doctor if there are other treatments that deliver similar relief without the associated risks. For some patients, putting up with short-term discomfort is worth missing the risk of opioids.

3. Avoid Taking Opioids for Chronic Pain

Opioids are generally not recommended for long-term use; the risk of addiction rises significantly the longer patients take oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine or fentanyl. In fact, this risk increases sharply after just five days of treatment. It doesn’t take long for the brain to develop physical dependence and even tolerance to synthetic opioids. For chronic pain such as arthritis, it may be better to pursue non-narcotic options for pain relief.

4. Request the Smallest Effective Dose Possible

Some drug companies have pushed doctors to overprescribe opioid medications. However, reputable and ethical doctors will initially prescribe you the lowest effective dose and only increase the dosage later, and only if absolutely necessary. Make sure your doctor knows you want to err on the side of caution to avoid addiction.

5. Never Take More Than Prescribed

Don’t ever take two doses of oxycodone or other opioids at the same time, even if you forget a dose. Also, resist the temptation to take an “extra” pill if your pain gets worse. Instead, call your doctor, mention the pain and follow any instructions he or she gives you. Taking more painkillers than prescribed is a warning sign that you may be developing a tolerance or possible addiction.

6. Involve Family Members

Don’t keep your family in the dark—there’s nothing to feel ashamed about. You have a medical issue, and you’re following medical treatment. It’s OK to talk about increased anxiety, nausea, irritability and other side effects you may be experiencing. Look to your doctor and family for support.

7. Use the Same Doctor and Pharmacy

In the case of car accidents, broken bones, childbirth and surgeries, there’s a good chance you’ll have access to the same doctor throughout recovery. Sticking with the same physician and pharmacy is important because there are systems in place to control prescriptions. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with selecting a doctor you feel comfortable with. However, be aware if you find yourself going from doctor to doctor in search of additional medication, which is a major warning sign for addiction.

8. Sign an Opioid Therapy Agreement With Your Physician

With any long-term opioid treatment, conscientious doctors should ask you to sign an opioid therapy agreement. You may have to agree to urine testing and regular follow-up visits during treatment. These steps may seem intrusive, but they can save your life. By establishing a legal document ahead of time, you’re giving yourself some tough love to protect yourself from addiction.

9. Understand That Addiction Can Happen to Anyone

It’s common to think that addiction can happen to everyone but you. However, with potent medications such as oxycodone and fentanyl, anyone can become addicted. The chemical components of opioids render effects that are difficult for anyone’s brain to resist. Educate yourself to build your awareness if you start to notice signs of addiction. Don’t get depressed, feel guilty or hide the issue. Instead, understand that the problem is the medication, not you. Seek help right away in order to avoid addiction.

10. Keep an Eye on Side Effects

If you notice worrisome side effects, you should immediately call your doctor. Some side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and constipation, are common with opioid medications. Respiratory complications can be dangerous, so contact your doctor immediately if you experience any difficulty breathing.

11. Follow the Doctor’s Instructions for Stopping Opioid Treatment

As with any narcotic medication, you should never stop taking opioids suddenly because it can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms. There is even a risk of drug overdose. Instead, your doctor should gradually ease you off treatment with smaller doses.

In an ideal world, patients would be able to get the pain relief they need without relying on addictive medication. If your doctor prescribes opioids for intense pain consider the pros and cons of each treatment, be open and honest with your family, and try to stick to the lowest dose possible. Opioid addiction is a real problem, but awareness can protect you and help you to avoid addiction.

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