Addiction and Pain Medication: How to Manage Pain After Surgery

Addiction and Pain Medication: How to Manage Pain After Surgery

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If you are in recovery from addiction, you might worry about taking pain medication after surgery. Your concern over taking pain medication is understandable. Pain medications often contain opioids, which can be highly addictive and lead you back into the throes of active addiction.

However, you cannot always avoid taking pain medications for the rest of your life. You might suffer an injury and be given pain medications by emergency medical staff. Following surgery, pain medication might be necessary as your body heals from your procedure. Without pain pills, you might not be able to get the rest that your body needs to recover from surgery. 

If you are in recovery from addiction or concerned about taking pain medications, talk to your doctor about safely taking pain medications as you recover from surgery to minimize your risk of relapse or addiction.

Can I Abstain From Pain Medications?

If you are in recovery from alcohol or substance use disorder, you understand the potential for relapse. While relapse rates for addiction are generally lower than other chronic illnesses, the risk is always present, which is why recovery is an ongoing process. Even if you did not struggle with addiction to pain medications specifically, substance use disorders might change your brain and prime you to develop addictions to other substances or problematic behaviors.

Unfortunately, total abstinence from pain medications is not realistic, even for those in recovery. You might need dental work, get into an accident, experience pains during childbirth, or require other medical procedures throughout your lifetime. While some alternatives exist to manage pain without opioids, you might not always have other options.

The Risks of Avoiding Surgery

When your health and wellbeing are at risk, total abstinence from pain medications might not be an option. If you are avoiding a life-saving procedure or one that will prevent worsening health conditions due to a past addiction, you need to consider the risks of relapse compared to the benefits of the procedure. 

Consider what will happen if you don’t get this procedure. Will your overall health decline? Will you experience lifelong chronic pain? Will your quality of life decline? Some of these issues can potentially contribute to relapse down the road if you avoid a medical procedure altogether to abstain from pain medications. 

Taking Pain Medication During Addiction Recovery

You can safely take pain medication during recovery from addiction if you carefully plan before your procedure. If your surgery is unavoidable and healing will be painful, you should consider the following steps to avoid relapsing on pain medications:

  • Talk to your doctor about your concerns.
    • Be open and honest with your treating physician about your past with addiction.
    • Let them know that you are in recovery and need to be careful about pain medications, especially addictive pills containing opioids.
    • Your doctor might suggest alternative medications or holistic treatment that do not involve potentially addictive drugs to treat pain.
  • Discuss the aftercare process for your surgery.
    • Ask your doctor about what to expect when you heal from your procedure.
    • You want to know how much pain you should expect and how long this pain should last.
    • If your pain should only be intense for the first few days following surgery, your doctor might recommend switching from opioid pain medication to something non-addictive, like aspirin or ibuprofen, after your pain intensity peaks. 
    • Also, discuss what actions will help you avoid pain, like how much bed rest you should get or when you can ease into regular activities.
  • Only take what your physician prescribes.
    • If you take other pain relievers along with opioids, even over-the-counter (OTC) medications, you might intensify the euphoric feelings that can lead to misuse or abuse.
    • Be sure to have your prescriptions for pain medications planned out with your physician.
    • If your doctor recommends only a few days of prescribed pills followed by OTC pain relievers as needed, have a strict plan to follow, including your daily dosage, times to take the medications, and get a script for only precisely what you need with no refills.
  • Ask a trusted friend or loved one for help dispensing your pain medication.
    • You might be afraid of having your pain medications accessible to you if you feel triggered or tempted to misuse these drugs.
    • Talk to a friend or loved one about helping you with your pain medication.
    • You might ask them to hold onto the medication for you and bring it to you at specific times.
    • Discuss this plan with your doctor to ensure that your medications are dispensed when you need them.
  • Stop taking your pain medications as soon as you are able.
    • If your pain begins to subside sooner than you anticipated, you might want to dispose of the remaining pills.
    • Your doctor might have a plan for you to gradually taper off your pain medications and switch to OTC pain relievers as needed.

Recovery From Prescription Pain Relief Medications in Denver, CO

Prescription pain relievers might be necessary to heal from a dental procedure, injury, childbirth, or surgery. When you have a history of addiction, you might be concerned about taking opioid pain relievers due to the risk of relapse. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to opioids after a medical procedure, Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado is here to help. Contact us today to learn about our outpatient rehab facilities.