Opioid Review: A Painless Conversation about Pain

Opioid Review: A Painless Conversation about Pain

If you have a chronic condition or have ever recovered from an injury or illness, you know how difficult coping with pain can be. Pain management has become a controversial topic. The current epidemic of addiction to opioid pain medications is a source of heated debate – and for good reason.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl, along with legal prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that more than 70 percent of the 70,630 drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved an opioid.

Opioid deaths continue to rise. They rose more than six percent from 2018 to 2019, and have quadrupled since 1991.

One of the challenges in dealing with pain is that it is subjective. Physicians have to rely on our description about its intensity, which can make it hard to judge how much medication a person needs.

Chronic pain, in particular, is difficult to treat. To begin with, what exactly is chronic pain? A typical definition is pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. The side effects of chronic pain can be severe. Limited mobility and a poorer quality of life are two.

Talk with Your Doctor

If you’re experiencing chronic pain, or if your pain medications aren’t working, meet with your doctor. To help with your discussion, here are some questions you might ask:

  • What exactly is the cause of my pain?
  • What type of medication is being used to treat my pain?
  • Are there any dangers with my pain medication?
  • Can it be addictive?
  • How long will it take for the medication to work?
  • How long will I be taking the medication?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • Are there other ways to treat my pain?

Acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation and yoga may help relieve your pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports, “a growing body of evidence suggests that some complementary approaches may help to manage some painful conditions.”

Talk with your doctor. Many hospitals offer a variety of alternative treatments. Your physician should be able to give you some direction on what will happen.

Worried about Addiction?

No matter how you and your doctor decide to treat your pain, here’s the important thing to remember: your pain needs to be controlled in a safe and effective way. By using safety as your starting point, you’ll be able to plan ways to lessen or eliminate your pain.

Sources: Understanding the Epidemic,   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; Opioids,   National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021; Chronic Pain: In Depth,   National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Originally published 5/17/2017; Revised 2017, 2021