How to Talk to Your Healthcare Provider about Addiction to Pain Pills
-Mayah Taylor, MA
More than 80% of Americans had contact with a healthcare provider in the last year which places Doctors in the unique position to identify non-medical use of prescription drugs and stop the escalation of non-medical use to a substance use disorder.
Addiction to pain pills is becoming a growing problem in the United States. Opioids are highly addictive, and they are very easily accessible. Something simple as a doctor’s visit for chronic back pain or a recent surgery can allow access to prescribed medications that are in fact opioids. It can be very easy to become addicted to your prescribed pain medication. Often, we see clients at our practice that have been prescribed pain medication by their doctor to be used short term however, a year later they are still taking the pain medication.
Addiction vs. Dependency
It is possible to be dependent on opioids but not addicted to them? In order to better understand this concept, one has to break down the definitions of addiction and dependency. Addiction is when a person compulsively uses a substance or drug despite negative risks or consequences. Dependency is when a person uses a drug or substance chronically and if in the event the drug or substance is stopped, they experience withdrawal symptoms. The key to understanding the difference between these two terms is understanding that to be addicted means to be using or doing something compulsively whereas dependence is not defined by compulsive use.
How Can You Avoid Addiction to Pain Pills?
The first step to avoid potentially becoming addicted or even dependent on pain medication is to have an honest and open conversation with your doctor. You should be doing this every time you are prescribed a new medication or anytime your medication is changed. When I use the word doctor, I’m not just referring to your medical PCP, I’m also talking about your dentist or other healthcare professionals. If you are being prescribed pain medication, you should be asking the prescribing healthcare professional questions regarding your prescription. We so often forget this important step and instead we take our prescription, accept our doctor’s recommendation in prescribing the prescription, and leave the doctor’s office to go fill our prescription at our local pharmacy.
Among the questions you should be asking are questions regarding pain management options, risk of opioid addiction, and the proper use of medication prescribed. Also, when talking to your doctor be aware of possible risk factors for addiction such as genetics, family history, trauma, mental health, history of substance abuse and psychological/ social stressors.
Additionally, be honest about other medications you are already prescribed and currently taking. Your doctor should have as much information about you so that he or she can help you make the best medical choice when medication is being prescribed. If you are being prescribed an opioid, your doctor can explain to you what it is and how to safely use the medication you are being prescribed. If you have a history or are at potential risk of abuse, talk to your doctor so that together the two of you can develop and implement a support plan for monitoring and dispensing your prescription. Don’t hesitate to take an active approach in your treatment by starting the dialogue with your doctor. Protect yourself from opioid addiction.
By asking about all drugs (and not just pain medication), doctors can help you recognize that a problem exists, provide or refer you to appropriate treatment, and in some cases set recovery goals.
As always, share your successes and struggles by posting on our various social media sites or by contacting us here!
National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. Ambulatory Care Use and Physician office visits. 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/physician-visits.htm.