Opioids are all over the news these days and the media has been demonizing their use. They make it sound as if addiction is a sure thing if you use opioids, but that’s not always the case. Myths about this misunderstood medication abound but here are some facts you may not know.
MYTH: NO ONE SHOULD EVER TAKE OPIOIDS
Whoa, just stop right there. This is the proverbial “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” mentality. When used responsibly, opioids do have a place in medical treatment. Particularly in hospice treatment, they are often used because they are effective when taken correctly, and obviously there is less worry about addiction in the terminally ill. Having said that, when opioid use is controlled by knowledgeable doctors and nurses, it’s a great tool in pain management or for respiratory symptoms. In the right hands, it can be a great tool but even many doctors don’t understand opioid use and how to adjust dosages. Make sure you have a knowledgeable doctor who understands how to prescribe opioids and monitor their use.
MYTH: OPIOID ADDICTION AND DEPENDENCE ARE THE SAME
Once again, hospice patients are the greatest example of the difference between dependence and addiction. When setting an opioid dosage, it’s important to try to find a balance where the medication combines with your pain receptors for pain relief but stops there. When you exceed the dosage necessary to chemically reduce pain, you get a high, and that means you can become addicted. However, people can become physically dependent on that pain relief and that dosage of opioids and still function. The patients who successfully use opioids are following the instructions of their doctors and accurately giving them feedback on their pain levels. That translates to not saying you have more pain so you can get a higher dosage or an increased prescription.
MYTH: YOU NEED OPIOIDS FOR CHRONIC PAIN
Not all kinds of pain are the same. If you’re experiencing bone pain from a break or bone cancer, opioids are not going to be effective and aren’t your best choice. NSAIDs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be more effective. If you’re experiencing nerve pain, studies have found that antidepressants and even anticonvulsants can be effective for managing that particular type of pain. Now our medical professionals are looking at other ways to manage pain that don’t involve drugs at all. You might benefit from acupuncture or massage to help ease your pain. Opioids aren’t always necessary and sometimes they aren’t the best treatment for pain.
MYTH: ALL OPIOID DRUGS HAVE THE SAME RISK
Just as you can make a general statement that not all medications are the same, the same is true for opioids. Forms of opioids that give immediate relief can have a greater chance of abuse and addiction than those that release the medication in a controlled manner. Extended-release forms of these pain medications can help regulate the dosage and provide more of a continuous release that helps prevent administering more than you need too quickly. Likewise, immediate-release forms carry a greater risk of overdose, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl was cited in the deaths of Prince and Tom Petty and is extremely dangerous due to its quick absorption and effects.
MYTH: I’M TAKING EXTENDED-RELEASE SO I’M SAFE, RIGHT?
Well, sorry to say this but you can still overdose and become addicted even if you’re taking extended-release forms of opioids. Just because it’s safer than a quick-acting opioid doesn’t mean it’s safe. Follow the doctor’s instructions but let them know what you feel like. Are you getting too much or too little medication to adequately control your pain? You never want to go overboard and increase the dose if your symptoms are under control.
MYTH: I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION SO IT’S OKAY
Please say you don’t still believe that. Any medication can be abused if you don’t follow the directions of a doctor or nurse practitioner. Unfortunately, that’s what has happened on a widespread scale. If someone abuses a drug like Valium, which has fallen out of favor in the medical profession, addiction and dependence can result. Always follow your doctor’s advice and report adverse effects so your dosage is adjusted to therapeutic levels. That’s the bottom line. Many of the people in rehabilitation are suffering from abuse of prescription drugs. Don’t become one of them.
Opioids have gotten a lot of bad publicity lately. There are legitimate medical uses for opioids and like any drug, it’s important to take them as directed. It can be hard to find the right balance between pain relief and creating a high that leads to addiction, but giving your doctor accurate feedback so that they can adjust your dosage helps keep their use therapeutic and not addictive. Many people with substance use disorders started out using prescription medication that developed into a habit. Many others have used the same substance and didn’t need it anymore once their pain was controlled or continued medications for chronic pain without addictive side effects. Whether you’re addicted to prescription medication or you can’t stop drinking alcohol, Everlast Recovery Center is here to help. Our inpatient rehabilitation program is based in Riverside, CA, and we offer help and hope to those who are struggling with substance abuse. We can help from detoxification to recovery at home with our aftercare program. Let us help you. Call (800) 338-6925.