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How to Protect Yourself from Opioid Dependence

By |2018-05-07T09:21:09-04:00July 5th, 2016|Categories: Health A-Z|Tags: |

The national epidemic of opioid-based prescription painkillers and heroin, an inexpensive narcotic painkiller, has been a sobering statistic, including right here in New Jersey; in 2014, more than 1,200 people, many from nearby Ocean County, died as a result of overdosing on the most common prescription opioids–Methadone, Oxycodone (such as OxyContin) and Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin).

Many are surprised to learn that people who battle this addiction did not do so by choice, rather, it happened more by accident, usually starting with a legally prescribed medication for short-term pain management for an injury or after surgery.

Who is at higher risk for opioid addition?

Studies have shown that certain people may be at higher risk for possible addiction issues. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have identified these increased risk factors include:

  • Having mental illness or a history of alcohol or other substance abuse
  • Obtaining overlapping prescriptions from multiple providers and pharmacies
  • Living in rural areas
  • Having low income
  • Being prescribed high doses of opioids
  • Sleep apnea
  • Older age (65 years or older)
  • Pregnancy

Opioid addiction signals

Keep in mind, there is a difference between being dependent on narcotics and being addicted. Many patients can become dependent, even after a brief period of use. In such cases, manageable withdrawal symptoms are to be expected, over the course of a few days up to a week. Addiction, however, is a disease that requires specialized medical treatment in a safe and controlled environment.

If you identify any of these signs, seek professional substance abuse support immediately:

  • Are they obsessing about opioids or stating that the medication is no longer working?
  • Are they angry at the doctor or pharmacy when they are denied medication?
  • In frustration, have they sought out pain relief through alternative means— using someone else’s medication or ID or joked about scoring ‘cheaper’ heroin?
  • Have they lost interest in traditionally enjoyable activities– socializing, dining out, and spending time with hobbies?
  • They have a decrease in attentiveness, energy level, speech patterns, and personal hygiene.

If you find yourself or a loved one in need of treatment for pain, take every precaution to ensure your doctor is aware of any addiction risk factors as well as any other doctors you are seeing who may prescribe pain medication therapy. I recommend bringing your over-the-counter and prescribed medications to every doctor visit (even your annual physical) and letting us know what other doctors are treating you. This is crucial to your health, particularly when it comes to managing acute and chronic pain. Should you ever receive an opiate prescription, talk with your doctor about why this is the best pain solution and ask what other non-opiate options might be equally suitable for your situation.

Today, pain management no longer means handing a prescription to a patient in pain. In fact, we generally prescribe non-opioid treatment initially, such as mind/body activities, (cognitive behavioral therapy), topical creams and non-opioid anti-inflammatory medications. If a stronger pain medicine is warranted, the prescription covers only one or two weeks, at the most (with the exception of cancer pain mitigation).

High-quality health care is a click away

CentraState Medical Center’s Physician Finder offers an extensive roster of highly skilled doctors, including board-certified pain management specialists, with offices located throughout central New Jersey. Visit our physician finder online or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).

pain relief freehold njMaged Ghattas, MD is a triple board-certified in pain medicine, hospice & palliative medicine and anesthesiology, is on staff at CentraState Medical Center. He can be reached at Complete Care Pain & Palliative Care in Freehold by calling 732-336-1806.

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