Stop, It Hurts! Three Reasons to Avoid Prescription Pain Medications
When your body hurts, you want the pain to stop as soon as possible. Opioid-based pain killer medications are now a commonly prescribed antidote to meet patients’ chronic pain needs, and as the number of prescriptions have increased there has been a parallel rise in the number of opioid-related hospitalizations, injuries, overdoses and deaths. If you are considering seeing your doctor about prescription pain medication to treat your chronic pain, here are three things to consider before filling your prescription.
- They may not work. The New York Times reported that opioid-based pain medications were primarily prescribed by doctors for short-term pain management needs and for those with terminal illnesses, like cancer. As opioids are increasingly prescribed for long-term pain management, new research suggests that these medications may be ineffective or even detrimental to the health of those with chronic pain. One Danish study of over 10,000 people indicated that those who utilized opioid-based medications to manage their pain reported a lower overall quality of life. There is also cause to believe that opioid medication abuse can contribute to a condition known as hyperalgesia that actually increases the user’s sensitivity to painful stimuli.
- The risks might outweigh the gains. Opioid medications have a high risk for addiction, with many individuals eventually supplementing or switching to harder drugs like heroin when their prescription ends or when they need a bigger high. Anyone with a personal or familial history of drug abuse or addiction is especially at risk of misusing an opioid prescription. Ultimately the risks for potential addiction must be weighed carefully by prospective patients against the likelihood of opioid’s effectiveness in their case as well as worst case scenarios.
- There may be better alternatives. It may be counter-intuitive, but one of the most effective methods of managing chronic pain is the use of over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Motrin. Without the risk of addiction and the intense side effects of opioid medications on the body, many over the counter medications can be used safely over much longer periods of time without risk of injury or dependence. Other holistic treatments including yoga and acupuncture may also be able to remedy some of the effects of chronic pain, possibly removing the need for medication altogether for certain conditions.
One more piece of advice:
See a specialist. Perhaps you’ve considered all your options and you are willing to accept the risks of using prescription medications. If you’re headed to the doctor to get their help managing your chronic pain, make sure your appointment is with a pain specialist. The New York Times continues, suggesting that doctors without any special training in pain management methods prescribed opioids at more than six times the rate of pain management specialists. By visiting a pain specialist, you are ensuring that you are getting the right medication for you and your condition.
It may seem like a no-brainer to take whatever your doctor prescribes, but most doctors receive limited training in addiction treatment and prevention, and therefore aren’t always fully aware of some of the “unforeseen” side effects of prescribed medications. If you become one of millions of Americans misusing, abusing or addicted to the very medications meant to help, it will be you who has to deal with the consequences, not your doctor.