The misuse and abuse of opioid medications have a very real impact on all of our lives–whether as pain patients, family or friends of those with pain, or members of the community. As we’ve wrote on the blog this month during our focus on these drugs, not only did painkillers claim 16,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2009, but oxycodone was also named the most dangerous drug in Clark County, NV. Even more disturbing is the fact that the populations most at-risk are adolescents and veterans.
Because of these alarming statistics, many groups are coming together to combat the problem of opioid overuse and abuse.
Many states are now beginning to regulate the use and ability to prescribe opioid medications with prescription drug monitoring programs, as well as penalize those who abuse these drugs. Many of these regulations also often incorporate a safe disposal method, such as Clark County’s Pain in the Drain program, in order to keep these drugs away from adolescents and other populations at risk for abuse.
Pain doctors also have the capability to better monitor their own patients and prescribe these opioid medications thoughtfully with urine drug tests. Finally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stepped up earlier this year to implement more comprehensive labeling on all opioid medications to better explain the risks of use.
If you do need opioid medications to help you manage your chronic pain, there are many tools you can use in order to minimize your risk of misuse, such as:
- Closely monitoring your own use of these drugs in cooperation with your pain management team
- Finding ways to curb or minimize your use of opioids with the support of your doctor
- Using mobile apps to help you better track and monitor your pain symptoms
- Exploring alternative options for pain relief, such as epidural steroid injections or radiofrequency ablation
Watch this Video About the Safety of Epidural Steroid Injections
Finally, if you do find yourself in the grip of an addiction to opioid medications, do know that there is always help in the form of support groups and online resources. Remember, opioid medications are merely a tool that can help you live a higher quality of life with less pain, but there are almost always ways to limit their detrimental effects. Empowered by knowledge, supportive family and friends, and a strong pain management team, you can live a full life with chronic pain.
Tell us your story about your pain and your journey using opioid medications below.
Image by Vinoth Chandar via Flickr