Opioid misuse is a huge problem now in the U.S., challenging even smoking and obesity for cause of death. In fact, the rates of hospitalization for opioid overdoses among Medicare recipients increased five times between 1993 and 2012. Even though older people are less likely to become addicted to these painkillers, they are more likely to suffer from side effects from extended use, such as memory loss, other cognition problems as well as falls.
So what’s really happening or fueling this misuse? The ibogaine drug treatment center learned that in 2015, one third of Medicare beneficiaries got at least one prescription for opioids. Those who did, got an average of five refills. To further understand the situation, 380,000 Medicare records were recently examined. It turns out that none of the patients who visited emergency rooms with painful injuries (between 2008-2011) were taking opioids at the time. What was discovered is that the opioids prescription depended on the doctor that was treating them. If the patients saw doctors that prescribed opioids frequently, 24% of them ended up with a prescription of their own, compared with just 7% of those who were treated by doctors who were less likely to prescribe opioids. Even more surprising is that those who filled their prescriptions, took the painkillers for 180 days.
Here are the questions you should be asking:
Is this prescription an opioid? There are many names for one type of painkiller, between different brands and generic names, find out what you’re taking and why.
Is the medication safe to take with everything else I’m taking regularly? Don’t forget to mention all the other medication you are taking and supplements, even the natural ones and over-the- counter such as sleeping pills. Certain interactions can be dangerous, while some can cancel out others. Some opioids aren’t advisable with benzodiazepines, which is usually given to treat depression and anxiety.
Can I a non-opioid painkiller? Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Voltaren require a prescription, so you can get them through your doctor but not over the counter. Ask your medical professional if these can help because you’re concerned about dependency and addiction. It’s important to be open with your doctor.
Can I get the lowest dose possible to treat my pain? It’s always best to start with minimum dosage because tolerance builds up pretty quickly with opioids. Plus, it’s okay to feel a bit of discomfort, just not excruciating pain. You’re after all dealing with an injury, it will take time to heal. Aside from dosage, ask for the minimum number of pills, for the briefest time possible.
What are the other ways that can help manage my pain? Your doctor may be able to suggest specific exercises, physical therapy, deep breathing techniques, natural supplements or other ways to help yourself heal without more medication.
How do I taper off medication? You may need to gradually get off the opioids, make sure you ask how and when. You may also want to book a following appointment to make sure you’re doing everything possible to not get dependent on opiods.
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