Medical and dental procedures, like surgery, are typically an infrequent yet regular part of life. Taking a proactive approach to the pain management plan is vital and can eliminate the risks of developing an unintended addiction or experiencing an accidental overdose. Nearly 13 out of every 100 people using prescription pain relievers misuse them(1), and overdose deaths are highest among people aged 25 – 54(2). Fortunately, there are five simple steps you can take to have a happy and healthy recovery.
1. Ask for a Limited 5-Day Prescription with No Refills
Let your doctor know you are interested in collaborating on your pain management plan. Talk with your doctor about the option of limiting the prescription for opioid pain relievers to 5 days or less with no refills. The CDC recently published findings that the risk of developing long-term use, meaning continued use one year later, increases significantly after 5 days(3). Discuss the best way to wean yourself off the opioid pain meds using non-addictive alternatives, like ibuprofen, as soon as possible.
2. Ask for a Long-Acting and Lower Strength Prescription
Opioid pain relievers are not all the same. Short-acting types pose greater risks for the development of misuse, so make sure you talk with your doctor about long-acting options. Additionally, opioid pain relievers have varying strengths. You want the lowest strength medication that will get the job done. Luckily, there are variety of pain relief options.
3. Shift the Way You Think of Discomfort and Mild Pain
Let’s face it, no one likes feeling discomfort or pain. However, feeling mild levels actually helps the body heal. Discomfort is a messenger reminding us of our physical limitations in an effort to prevent re-injury. When really strong opioid medications eliminate pain and discomfort altogether, the healing process is impeded. Tolerable discomfort when healing is good for us.
4. Have a Trusted Loved One Hold and Dispense Your Pain Meds
It is a best practice to keep the prescription bottle put away, out of the reach of children, pets, and the recovering patient. Commonly, people forget when they took their last dose and take another too soon. Additionally, for the percentage of the population who experience euphoria from opioids, they take extra doses because it feels great, not necessarily to manage unbearable physical pain. A loved one can dispense the proper dose at the proper time and maintain a tracking log. I know this idea may seem burdensome, but trust me, dispensing meds to a loved one for a few days is a lot easier than coping with an unintended addiction or death stemming from an accidental overdose.
5. Dispose of Any Unused Pain Meds As Soon As Possible
Many people find they don’t use the entire prescription. Instead of keeping the leftovers in a cabinet or drawer, it is a best practice to dispose of these potent and addictive medications as soon as you no longer need them. Please don’t throw them in your household trash. Many local police departments have a prescription drop off, and you can ask your pharmacist about other options in your area.
With these proactive steps, you can have a safe and healthy recovery while reducing the risks associated with opioid prescriptions. Happy Healing!
1. Hughes A, Williams MR, Lipari RN, Bose J, Copello EAP, and Kroutil LA. Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. NSDUH Data Review, 2016.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Multiple Cause of Death 1999-2014 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2014, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10.html
3. Shah A, Hayes CJ, Martin BC. Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use — United States, 2006–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:265–269. DOI
Suzanne Brown, LCSW, LCAS
Psychotherapist, Coach, Trainer
Owner–Suzanne Brown Resources, PLLC
109 Conner Drive
Building III, Suite 107
Chapel Hill, NC 27514