What to Ask Your Doctor Before Taking Prescription Pain Killers

Prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone, Percocet or morphine are lifesavers if you are in pain, and using painkillers doesn’t automatically lead to addiction. In fact, most people take prescription painkillers without ever developing an addiction or dependence. They just get relief from severe pain, exactly what the drugs had been developed for.

However, there is no doubt that opioid addiction is a growing problem in countries around the world.

If your health care provider recommends opioid medications for chronic pain, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. It’s in your best interest to have a full understanding of the benefits and risks of prescribed painkillers.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If your doctor is recommending prescription painkiller, here are a few questions you may want to ask.

  • Ask your physician if there are alternatives to prescription painkillers. Some people find relief by taking Ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications, while others rely on regular treatment from an acupuncturist or chiropractor. Physical therapy or gentle exercise is helpful for many types of pain.
  • Opioid painkillers are sold under a number of different names. If you aren’t sure a prescribed painkiller is an opioid, ask your doctor for clarification.
  • Inquire how long your doctor thinks you’ll need to take the medicine. Ask him to prescribe the smallest effective dose. The CDC (Center for Disease Control), advises physicians to “start low and go slow” on opioids only if previously tried medication has not had the desired effect (also sometimes called the “WHO*-step ladder approach” to pain).
  • Ask your medical provider how the drug will affect your daily life. Although many side effects will resolve in time, opioid drugs often carry the risk of digestive problems such as constipation and nausea. Drowsiness is another serious and unpleasant side-effect which makes many people stop or interrupt the pain-treatment course. It is thus very important to understand the commonly experiences and to be expected side effects, especially those that might be dangerous. For example, will the medication make you groggy? Is it safe to drive, use electric tools or even kitchen equipment? Does it impair memory and judgement?
  • Find out how your doctor plans to taper off the medicine when it’s time to stop. Gradual tapering of the dosage can prevent withdrawal and other unpleasant effects of stopping suddenly.
  • Be aware that if you feel the need for increasing the dosage, speak with your doctor first. Never ever try and order additional supply over the internet or from other “street”-sources.

A Few More Tips

Don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion if you’re not comfortable with the information your doctor is providing. Pharmacists are also great and often patient and understanding sources of information.

Be honest with your health care provider. Tell her if you are using other medications, including over-the-counter products. Mixing opioids with benzodiazepines and other drugs can be extremely dangerous.

Drinking while using opioid medications should be avoided at any time!

Let your doctor know if you’ve ever struggled with addiction, substance abuse or dependence to alcohol or drugs of any type. Again, tell him or her if you feel the need of increasing your dosage.

Let your doctor know if you have discontinued or interrupted the course of intake as agreed beforehand. This is extremely important information for your treating physician or other health care providers.

Tell your doctor if you have a family history of drug or alcohol addiction, or if you have a history of depression, anxiety, bipolar or other mental health disorders.

Always keep the medication away from children or vulnerable adults.

When you travel, make sure you carry legitimation/a valid prescription for using opioids with you, in some countries carrying opioids can take you into serious difficulties with the police.

*World Health Organization

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