Safe Use of Pain Medications
Learn about all of the pain treatment options that are available to you. In addition to medication, complementary therapies such as massage and meditation may be helpful. As mentioned above, talking with your doctor about your pain is essential to assist him or her in choosing the most effective treatment for you. Once a treatment plan is completed you will likely be prescribed pain medication.
As a person living with pain, you should understand the benefits and risks associated with prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications to make informed decisions about what medications are the best option for you. If you are a caregiver to a person in pain, it's helpful to know what medications are being taken so that you can help the individual take the medications safely and responsibly and recognize any problems or issues if they occur.*
Many people are concerned that they will become addicted to pain medications or that they will be ‘knocked out’. Pain control does not lead to addiction nor is the goal to keep a person ‘knocked out’. There is a difference between addiction, which is a psychological craving for medicine, and physical dependence. People who need opioids (narcotics) for a period of time may develop a physical dependence on the medicine, with uncomfortable symptoms, such as sweating, chills, and nausea, if the medicine is stopped suddenly. This is only a temporary situation that can be prevented by slowly reducing the medicine over a few days or a few weeks.
Living with Side Effects
Pain medications can cause side effects, including grogginess, nausea or constipation. You may decide that you would rather live with a little pain than experience the side effects; however many side effects will go away or lessen over time as your body becomes used to the medicine. It is important to let your healthcare professionals know if you have any problems taking your medicine so that they can find ways to help manage the side effects.
You may also want to schedule visits from family, friends and healthcare providers so that you are at your best. If your pain is worse in the morning, ask people to visit later. If you feel sleepy 20 minutes after taking pain medication, ask people to visit a few hours later.
*American Pain Foundation www.painfoundation.org
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