For people who don’t have a history of abusing pain medication, they can take anything they’re prescribed without hesitation. However, what about recovering addicts, or people who have specifically abused pain medication in their past? What should they do in navigating temporary or chronic pain?
Doctors are in a difficult position when they need to treat a patient with this type of history. On one hand, it’s a physician’s duty to make their patients feel better and to improve their overall health condition but, on the other hand, doing so may set a recovering addict into relapse. Since treating pain for someone who has previously abused pain medication can be so incredibly tricky, the best way to manage the dichotomy is to keep a clear dialogue between the patient and the doctor.
Here are 4 things you should do when managing pain as a recovering addict.
1. Tell your doctor about your history with addiction.
It is very important that you disclose your concerns about pain medication to your doctor. Emphasize to him or her how successful your recovery has been and how seriously you take the issue of pain medication. Remember that your doctor sees many patients every day and, even among recovering addicts, each person’s story is uniquely different.
2. Be realistic about your pain needs.
If your pain is truly unmanageable and you can hardly function without it, it’s safe to say that you may need to take pain medication. However, if you feel like you can manage your pain fairly well—albeit uncomfortably—you may want to avoid taking the medication. Either way, talk to your doctor about your pain levels and how they relate to your cause of pain so that he or she can shed some light on how long you’re likely to experience your current level of pain.
3. Try non-addictive pain medication first.
If a non-addictive pain medication can satisfy your pain management needs, you’re in luck. However, again, if what you truly need is something else, don’t force yourself. Some addicts might be more tempted to turn to street-bought addictive pain medication if they are in serious pain and it isn’t being prescribed by their doctor. You and your doctor should carefully consider this possibility. If your pain levels are serious, then you need serious treatment.
4. Seek the support of a therapist during this time.
You might be less likely to relapse during your period of taking pain medication if you are simultaneously meeting with a therapist who has experience with recovering addicts. Find a therapist to help guide you through this. And if you wish to only see a therapist for a temporary period of time, know that that’s okay too.
Remember, just because you need pain medication does not mean you’ve broken your commitment to recovery. Many people would agree that taking pain medication for a medical purpose and a temporary period of time is only considered a relapse if it becomes something for more than medical purposes. Ultimately, your number one obligation is to keep yourself healthy, and as long as you approach your pain management honestly and with full support, you are on a good path to making it through addiction-free.