Prescription Painkillers: The Go-To Solution for Pain
Despite the record high number of opioid-related deaths, powerful painkillers continue to be the go-to treatment prescribed by many doctors. Opioids are so commonly prescribed that although the United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 80 percent of the world’s opioids.
Highly addictive prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin are being prescribed for anything from a sprain to post-surgical pain management by primary care doctors, dentists, and even pediatricians. And while many patients can take the prescriptions without becoming addicted, roughly five percent of those prescribed powerful opioids report having abused the medications.
One percent, or almost two million Americans, report having developed an addiction to a painkiller medicine. Most who become addicted later move on to illicit drugs such as heroin ⎼ and in many cases, an even more dangerous drug, fentanyl.
Why are Painkillers so Dangerous?
What exactly makes painkillers so dangerous? How addictive they are. While there are some factors –genetic, mental health, and environmental – that make certain individuals have a higher risk for developing an addiction, it is impossible for doctors to predict which patient will or will not become addicted.
Any time someone takes an opioid, they are at risk of developing an addiction. The higher the dosage and the longer they take it, the higher the risk.
How to Prevent the Slippery Slope into Addiction
So, what can you do if you suffer from chronic pain or need pain relief after surgery or an accident?
1. Ask for alternative medications.
In many cases, pain from sprains, strains, or fractures can be managed with non-opioid drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen.
2. Try acupuncture.
Several studies have shown that acupuncture is just as effective as prescription painkillers in treating chronic lower back and shoulder pain. Ask your doctor if this is an option for you.
3. Give aromatherapy a chance.
You might be skeptical that smelling something can make you feel better, but research shows that it works. Aromatherapy stimulates the limbic system of the brain, easing chronic pain.
4. Allow your body to rest.
Pain is a normal part of healing. Sometimes all your body needs is rest. Listen to your body and allow it to heal naturally. It is fine to feel some discomfort. Only take medicine when it is truly necessary.
5. Take precautions.
At times, your pain is too severe and taking opioids is unavoidable. In that case, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Let a loved one know you are taking opioids so that they can hold you accountable and make sure you don’t misuse them. Stop taking them once the pain has become manageable, and be sure to properly dispose of them.
Painkillers are powerful, potentially dangerous drugs, and it is important to treat them as such. Even those who take prescription medications as directed by their doctor can suffer consequences such as gastrointestinal complications, pain sensitivity, and lethargy. When seeking pain management, speak to your doctor about safer alternatives to protect yourself from addiction.