Because of the controversy with opioid use for patients suffering from chronic pain and the risk for addiction, there is some concern in the medical community that the drugs be used safely and effectively.

How can patients reduce their own use of these drugs?

Here are five ways you can curb opioid use when using them to treat pain.

  1. Use opioids in conjunction with other treatments. Exercise, acupuncture, and chiropractic care as well as the supervision of a pain specialist can all enhance the treatment for your chronic pain and reduce the need for opioid medications. Work with your doctor to develop a well-rounded treatment plan that can help you stay on top of your pain management.
  2. Only use the medications as prescribed. One of the biggest dangers and markers of opioid dependency is the overuse or incorrect use of these prescription medications.  Only take doses as prescribed. Do not take an additional dose. It is equally as important not to skip doses as a way to stretch the prescription or save the drugs for later. The success of opioids rests entirely in the correct usage.
  3. Don’t stop taking the medication abruptly. Opioids can have dangerous side effects if they are not stopped under a doctor’s care. Typically, your pain specialist will encourage you to slowly reduce the amount of medication you are taking until you are able to stop taking it all together. Stopping on your own can cause side effects such as nausea, insomnia, or even an increased heart rate.
  4. Rely on your friends and family for support. Individuals with healthy support groups are more likely to feel less dependent on opioids to treat their pain. In the absence of strong family or friend relationships, you may choose to join a support group for those dealing with chronic pain. It may also be beneficial to volunteer to help others dealing with the same condition.
  5. Talk to you doctor if you have any questions or concerns. We have created a culture in the United States that seems to discourage individuals from truly discussing their symptoms or care with their physicians. All too often, we simply accept the diagnosis and treatment without question. If you have concerns about treating your chronic pain with opioid medications, discuss it with your doctor.

What are your thoughts on opioid treatments for your chronic pain?

Image by Taki Steve via Flickr

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