We’ve talked in the past about a variety of aspects of the opioid crisis, including the cognitive behavioral approach to treating opioid addiction. And while we generally prefer to avoid prescribing them as part of chronic pain treatments, there are some cases where opioids actually make sense. Of course, this requires careful screening as well as ongoing monitoring to ensure patients are properly receiving and using a prescription opioid so as to avoid any potential negative impacts of taking this medication that may result in abuse or addiction.

Patients have a role to play here, too, as it is important for them to understand both why their doctor may be prescribing an opioid as well as the potential risks. To help patients better understand the role opioids play in treating chronic pain, here are to top questions you should ask if your doctor prescribes them.

Why Is This Medication Needed?

For many patients, it’s important that their doctor explore other treatment methods before prescribing opioids. For some chronic pain patients, however, the doctor may feel that an opioid treatment will improve the patient’s quality of life. If your doctor recommends opioids, try to find out why they believe that is the best course of action.

How Long Will I Be Taking Them?

Opioids are generally not a long-term solution, due to their addictive qualities. What’s more, patients will develop a tolerance to them over time, so that higher dosages become necessary to produce the same level of pain relief. It’s important to understand how long your doctor plans to have you on them and what his or her plan is to ween you off them. Opioid dosages must be tapered down in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and your doctor should provide you with a clear time frame for their usage.

What Are The Potential Side Effects Of This Medication?

Many opioids cause side effects, such as severe constipation. Some can cause drowsiness,

What Are Some Signs Of Addiction?

One sure sign of a developing opioid addiction is if the patient starts to request larger dosages or quantities of the prescription. Your doctor should be able to advise you on common symptoms, can adjust your prescription as needed, and can provide you with recommendations for avoiding addictive behaviors.

Additionally, it’s important to communicate with your medical provider about any history you may have of drug or alcohol abuse, as people with substance abuse histories often are more susceptible to addiction.

What Do I Do If I Think I Need Help?

Certainly, you should contact your medical professional should you find yourself in more pain even after taking the medication. Additionally, your doctor should be able to refer you to an addiction specialist or other outpatient rehabilitation program, but ideally, your doctor should be monitoring your usage in a way that avoids and mitigates addiction.

Do You Have Questions? We're Here To Help.

If you have other questions about opioid usage, or if you are concerned about prescription opioid abuse, contact us. We’re here to help you manage your pain, and can develop a personalized program that best fits your needs.

Please call Pain and Spine Specialists in Maryland at 301.703.8767, or 724-603-3560 in Pennsylvania to schedule a consultation or use the contact form on our website to send us a message.

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