If you have been prescribed opioid painkillers for a medical condition, you may be concerned about becoming dependent on or addicted to the medication, and for good reason. It’s reported that more than 2 million people misused prescription opioid drugs in 2017 alone, and more than 20,000 Americans overdose and die from these pain relievers every year.
With numbers like those, it’s understanding that you have reservations about taking opioids. However, there are situations that may necessitate taking some kind of painkiller. For example, if you are seriously injured or have to have some type of surgery, the pain may be too much to withstand. While taking opioids can be risky, there are some things you can do to lessen the chances that you will become addicted to the painkillers.
What Causes Opioid Addiction?
While taking prescription opioids for pain relief for a short period of time is generally safe, anyone who begins taking them is at risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to them. Opioids provide a euphoric feeling along with pain relief. For that reason, many people misuse the medication, taking it in higher doses than prescribed or more frequently. Those who become addicted to opioids are often trying to create the first “high” they felt when they started using opioids.
If you are concerned about taking prescription opioids, there are some steps you can take to decrease the likelihood that you will become addicted.
Ways to Help Prevent Opioid Addiction
It’s important to keep in mind that if you have ever been addicted to other substances, or you have a history of addiction in your family, you have a higher risk of becoming addicted to opioid painkillers. Though there are emergencies when using this type of medication is needed, it’s crucial that you let your doctors know your history.
Here are some of the ways to lessen the chances of opioid addiction:
- Talk to your doctor about other medications. Even acute pain can sometimes be helped by non-opioid medications. Because of the current opioid epidemic, more physicians are prescribing non-opioid pain relievers first and only moving to opioids when other medications don’t work.
- Follow your prescription precisely. If you do have to take opioids for pain, be sure that you follow all the guidelines your doctor prescribes. Doing so includes:
- Take the painkillers as directed, do not crush or chew pills
- Do not drink alcohol while taking opioids
- Ask you pharmacist about any potential drug interactions with other medications you take
- Know what the signs of opioid overdose are
- Always follow up with your doctor as directed
- Stop taking opioids as soon as you can. It’s recommended that patients who take opioids do so for the least amount of time and at the lowest dose possible to prevent physical dependence and addiction to the drug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees in a report that found:
- Patients who receive a one-day opioid prescription have a 6% chance of being on opioids for a year or longer.
- Patients with a five-day prescription have a 10% chance of being on opioids for a year or longer.
- Talk to your doctor about your other medications. There are some drugs that adversely interact with opioids (especially medication that is prescribed for anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and seizures). Be sure that your doctor knows about all the medications, vitamins, and supplements that you take.
When Opioid Addiction Happens
Whether you have a history of addiction or not, you can become addicted to opioids quickly. So, it’s always important to talk with your doctor about alternatives to opioids. If it turns out that opioids are the best option for your pain, be sure that you follow the guidelines above to lower your risk of becoming addicted.
If you or a loved one is currently taking opioids and misusing the medication or believe that you are already addicted, there is treatment available. At My Time Recovery, we can help you break your physical dependence to opioids and get you on the path to recovery. Contact us today to talk with an addiction specialist who will help determine the best way for you to proceed.