There are times when a physician feels the need to prescribe opiate painkillers to their patient. This may be because the individual is undergoing some type of surgical treatment or they are dealing with chronic pain. This type of medication is tightly controlled because of abuse and addiction – it is illegal to use such drugs for recreational purposes. Most physicians will be cautious about prescribing opiates and will only do so when they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. The vast majority of people who do use these medications never develop any problems as a result. Increasingly doctors are aware of how important it is to get the balance right between managing the pain and avoiding addiction.
Those individuals who are in addiction recovery will have particular concerns in regards to the medical use of opiate analgesia. This is particularly true for those who have been previously addicted to opiates – although it does apply to all recovering addicts including those recovering from alcohol abuse. The worry is that once the individual uses these substances it will trigger a relapse back to addiction. There are examples of people who fell into this trap after they used opiates under prescription. This is a reasonable concern because even people with no history of drug abuse have developed addiction problems after taking prescribed opiate medication. Thankfully there are things that can be done to prevent that from happening.
There are many options when it comes to pain management including:
* Techniques such as mindfulness mediation have proving to be effective in the treatment of chronic pain. This type of treatment for pain is inexpensive and involves no unpleasant side effects.
* If people are tense it can make the pain feel far more severe. This is why relaxations techniques are able to reduce the experience of this discomfort.
* There are a number of effective non-opiate medications that will be able to manage severe pain in many instances. This includes drugs that are most often used to treat epilepsy and depression – they also have pain management prosperities.
* Some people will experience pain relief from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS machine). This is regularly used in the management of pain associated with childbirth – it is based on the gate control theory of pain.
* Alternatives treatments such as acupuncture or reiki can help people deal with pain.
There are justifiable reasons for using opiate analgesia medication in recovery. It is inhumane for people to be left in pain. In most instances this discomfort can be dealt with by using non-opiate medications and pain management techniques, but this is not always possible. Chronic pain makes life unbearable and to leave somebody in this state, when there is a remedy, would a form of cruelty – and therefore unethical for a physician. This is why in some instances there will be justifiable reasons for prescribing opiate analgesia. Physicians will not deny people the medication they need, but they have an obligation to help the individual understand the risks involved – they also need a treatment plan that will help reduce these risks.
Here are some suggestions about the safe use of opiate analgesia in addiction recovery:
* It is vital that the physician prescribing opiate medication is aware of the patient’s history of addiction. If they are aware of the risks they may be able to suggest a non –opiate alternative first of all.
* The individual needs to keep in mind that the opiate medication is being used to treat a symptom. There is a great deal of difference between this and taking drugs to get high.
* It is vital that people follow their physician’s instructions carefully. If they are worried that their doctor is not taking the risk of relapse seriously enough they should ask for a second opinion.
* It is important to establish that there are no non-opiate alternatives that could be tried first of all. Unfortunately some physicians still have a tendency to just automatically prescribe opiate medications without fully considering other options.
* Those individuals who are dealing with chronic pain will usually be assigned to a pain management team made up of a number of different professionals. This expert multidisciplinary team will be well aware of dangers of opiates and will be able to provide the best guidance.
* The doctor can prescribe opiate medication to prevent the pain from arising or to treat it when it does arise. In practice this means that the individual will be expected to take the drug at regular intervals or as they feel they need it (this is referred to as pro re nata (PRN) or as required) – it is vital to take this medication as per instructions.
* Those individuals who have been prescribed PRN opiate medication should only take it treat their pain. This means that they need to be honest with themselves and not take the drug for any other reason.
* The sooner the individual can come off these medications the better for them. Of course, this cannot happen until their pain is managed by non-opiate means.
* It has been suggested that a blinded pain cocktail might be a good option when using methadone opiates for pain. This means mixing the drug with other substances, and the individual will not be told how much methadone is inside.
* A family member can be given the responsibility for managing the pain medication; although there could be ethical reasons for why this could become a problem.
* So long as the individual is only using these substances under strict doctor’s orders they will not have relapsed back to drug use. It should not affect their status in recovery.
* Those individuals who belong to a recovery fellowship should share their concerns and ask for support – a sponsor is generally good for this. It is important to keep in mind though, that the members of this group should not be handing out any medical advice that they are not qualified to give.