Your teen is scheduled for wisdom tooth extraction, your husband has a herniated disc, you and your doctor are weighing the pros and cons of a robotic hysterectomy. These are just a few of the seemingly endless number of reasons a person can legitimately be prescribed an opioid medication for pain. So what do you need to know about your options for pain relief and the potential risks and dangers before you ever have the first prescription filled for an opioid painkiller?
While physicians agree there are good reasons for a patient to be prescribed a powerful opioid like OxyContin, Vicodin or Percocet for a limited period of time, these medications come with serious risks. Why some individuals are more likely to abuse these highly addictive drugs is unclear, but to be on the safe side you should understand the risks and the warning signs that can lead to addiction.
“When it comes to kids, the current trend we have been witnessing is bittersweet,” says Detra Rouser, LPC, Lead Therapist for Canopy Children’s Solutions Outpatient Clinic. “There is a slight decrease in positive drug screens for marijuana abuse, but a rise in abuse of pain medications. Kids think medications like OxyContin, Hydroco-done, etc., prescribed from a doctor are harmless. Despite our efforts to educate them on the dangers, most don’t take seriously that ‘popping just 1 more pill’ than their usual recreational dose can kill them.”
Every patient should ask questions of his or her doctor before getting a new prescription and make sure they have a clear understanding of the potential risks and side effects. And, if your child is the patient it is important for you as a parent to make sure the physician is aware of any special concerns you have about the medication being prescribed. That is especially true when your doctor, oral surgeon or other healthcare professional prescribes an opioid.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed a series of questions for you to go over with your physician or your child’s doctor before filling a prescription for an opioid painkiller.
No reasonable person would suggest that patients should have to endure crippling pain after surgery, an injury or a serious medical condition like cancer, without prescription pain medicines. But thoughtful prescribing, patient education, and alternative pain control methods are key to reducing the risk of abuse and addiction. While anyone can become addicted to a powerful pain medication, knowing the risks and the warning signs to look for is the first line of defense in the battle against the opioid epidemic that has swept our nation.