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How to Manage Narcotic and Opioid Use for Your Chronic Pain

Opioid Crisis Concept Photo

Pain that lasts more than three months is considered chronic pain.

Chronic pain such as back pain and osteoarthritis is often treated with prescription opioids, however there can be serious risks when opioids are misused.

Opioids are narcotic pain medications typically used to treat both chronic pain and moderate to severe pain after injury or surgery.

Opioids work by attaching to receptors in your brain, spinal cord or other areas of your body to block the brain from receiving pain signals.

Take your medications only as directed by your doctor! Do not share your medications with anyone!

Speaking with your Physician

Before you receive a prescription for opioids, speak to your doctor about:

  • Alternative pain treatment options, including non-opioid medications, physical therapy and alternative treatments.
  • Additional medicines you are currently taking, including prescription and over-the- counter drugs as well as herbal supplements.
  • Past/current drug or alcohol use.

Did you know that HSS offers a weekly Mindful Breathing phone call to help participants cope with pain and stress? In this group phone call, participants practice mindful breathing techniques and a certified yoga instructor leads a short, guided meditation. For more information, please contact Maggie Wimmer at 212-774-2647 or email pped@hss.edu

At your follow-up visit with your doctor, it is important to:

  • Discuss your body’s response to the pain medications.
  • Discuss any side effects of the medications.
  • Ask questions.

As you recover from surgery, your opioid use should decrease. If you continue to experience severe pain and/or your opioid use increases, speak with your physician as soon as possible.

Managing pain following surgery is an important part of recovery. Knowing some fundamental facts about how to properly use opioids is essential for your safety and wellbeing. – Barbara Wukovits, RN, BSNC, BC, Director Pain Management Service, Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care & Pain Management

What are the possible side effects of taking prescription medications?

  • Constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Itching and sweating

Tolerance can occur after taking an opioid for an extended period of time and your body needs more of the drug to experience pain relief.

Discuss with your doctor when you are ready to stop taking pain medication. Your doctor may slowly wean you off the medication to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Opioids can be an effective treatment; however, it is critical to use them safely and per your doctor’s instructions.

Tips on How to Store and Dispose of Medications

  • Medications should be stored securely in their original containers.
  • Keep medications out of sight and out of children’s reach, preferably in a locked cabinet or high shelf.
  • Dispose of medications immediately after your pain symptoms have resolved.
  • Unused medications are best disposed of at your pharmacy or a take back facility. To find a public disposal location near you, visit https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj. gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main.

HSS Education Institute’s Public & Patient Education Department (PPED) offers programming on musculoskeletal conditions and other health and wellness topics for patients and the general public through community lectures, workshops, outreach programs, injury prevention programs, exercise classes, publications, and digital programming.

HSS HealthConnection Fast Facts, produced by the Education Institute’s Public & Patient Education Department, is a convenient resource designed to provide the public with fast, current and accurate musculoskeletal and general health information.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.