Many of the substances people become addicted to and end up seeking help from addiction treatment centers for should be avoided in all cases – such as cocaine and heroin. However, some addictive substances also have important medical purposes and sometimes people need to use them for relief, such as prescription painkillers.
Many individuals do not take painkillers because they are concerned about becoming addicted. However, if these people have a real need for pain relief, they should talk to their doctor about ways to take these pills safely.
Recently, the Courier-Journal, a Kentucky news source, spoke to Karsten Kueppenbender, M.D., an addiction psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. She recognized that while certain painkillers can be highly addictive, there is still also a legitimate need for these pills in some cases. Researchers from Harvard have also pointed out that 97 % of people who use prescription painkillers do not end up having a problem with them.
However, that still leaves many individuals who do develop an addiction to painkillers. Here are some ways to use these pills safely to minimize the risk of addiction.
One of the best ways to avoid becoming addicted to prescription painkillers is to follow a doctor’s orders. People should only be taking these pills as their doctors or pharmacists recommend, and should not exceed the dosage they are told to stick to.
Individuals who are concerned about becoming addicted to these medications may try and wait to take them until their pain gets very bad. However, this could lead to them eventually breaking down and taking more pills than they should, which is why it is a better idea to simply take these pills as recommended.
Everyday Health suggested that people who may be worried that they could be developing an addiction to their painkillers should look for the signs of this type of addiction. For example, running out of a prescription early, using multiple doctors to get pain medications, taking pain medications from others and lying to doctors about a need for painkillers are all strong signs of an addiction.
Everyday Health spoke to James Zacny, Ph.D., professor of anesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago and a drug-dependence researcher, who explained that people who are addicted to painkillers use them even when they are no longer in pain. However, it can be tough for some people to know whether pain or a painkiller addiction is causing them to ask for more.
“There is no biological marker of pain. It is subjective and you have to rely on what the patient says,” explained Zacny to the news source. “A doctor might become a bit wary of further prescribing if a person comes in at the first visit initially rating the pain as a 10 on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is worst pain imaginable. Then, on subsequent visits the patient continues to rate the pain as 10, has not made any positive lifestyle changes, and continues to still want the drug.”
He added that there are tools doctors can use to help patients determine if they still need painkillers, such as the McGill Pain Questionnaire.
People who have had problems with drugs and alcohol in the past may want to avoid painkillers altogether. These individuals should talk to their doctor and see if they have any other options available to them that can help ease the discomfort they are experiencing, or ask their doctor to closely monitor their use of these drugs.