Every day millions of people suffer from acute and chronic pain, relying on prescription opioids for relief. While these are a fast-acting, immediate option, they should only be used under the careful supervision of a physician. Right now, we are going through a public health emergency due to rising opioid addiction cases.
If you need pain relief but looking to avoid the risk of opioid side effects and addiction, talk to your doctor about alternative options.
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS USED FOR?
Opioids are used for people who struggle with pain.
Acute pain usually occurs due to injury, surgery, or infection. The pain should last less than three months and subside as the body heals.
If opioids are prescribed for acute pain, it is crucial to take them as prescribed. To minimize the risk of addiction, doctors may opt to prescribe a low dosage and a low number of pills without refills to encourage additional health checkups. When there are excess pills, the patient and people around them are at risk of addiction. Be sure to dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired medication at a drug take-back location.
Chronic pain can last weeks, months, and even years. This might appear due to arthritis or nerve damage. Alternative options may provide additional relief for those with chronic pain and help balance the risk of drug misuse.
WHY AVOID OPIOID USE?
While all patients experiencing high levels of pain deserve relief, opioids can lead to tolerance, dependency, addiction, and even overdose. In addition, opioids may also only reduce some types of pain.
Other side effects can include:
- Dry Mouth
If you or someone you know is using opioids, talk to your doctor about getting Naloxone or Narcan. Narcan can help reverse the effects of opioid overdose in an emergency.
One great thing is safe alternatives for pain management exist, with fewer side effects and reduced exposure to opioids.
Over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can provide help relief. These include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
- Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, is a great first choice for nerve pain or tissue damage. It can help with pain caused by:
- Muscle aches
- For pain due to swelling and inflammation, Ibuprofens like Advil may provide better pain control than opioids.
Non-Drug Treatments are also widely available such as:
- Physical Therapy
- Chiropractic Care
- Ice and Heat
- And Group Therapy (Emotional pain is often tied to physical pain. Having someone to talk to can greatly improve care.)
While alternative pain relief techniques may not provide immediate change, they are effective and often better for long-term management. Discuss with your doctor what treatment option is right for you.