Recovering comfortably is important, but managing the side effects and risks of opioid pain medication is crucial. Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) techniques can make a world of difference. Shorter hospital stays and less pain are just the start.1
THE RISK OF OPIOIDS
1-in-16 Americans will become persistent users of opioid medication after surgery.3 Your risk for persistent misuse of opioids increases the longer you take them and the higher your dosage.4
Even if you have no history of addiction, the medications can be difficult to stop using. And for those with a personal or family history of drug/alcohol dependence, it’s important to take steps that reduce that risk, even before the surgery itself.
Minimally invasive surgery, also known as laparoscopic surgery, can reduce your chance of opioid misuse and dependency following surgery.2,5
HOW SERIOUS IS OPIOID ADDICTION?
Nearly 50,000 people will die from opioid overdoses this year. Only a fraction of these will be because of “street drugs.” Prescription medication abuse is at epidemic levels, but you can make decisions that reduce your risk.
Millions of opioid prescriptions written in the United States each year6
Millions of people who misused prescriptions opioids in 2018 alone7
Millions of people who struggle with a chronic opioid use disorder8
SIDE EFFECTS & ADDICTION
The possible side effects of opioids, even when taken as directed, include abdominal cramps, constipation, headaches, nausea, sleepiness, vomiting, and a fuzzyheaded feeling.
The risk of overdose with opioids is high because the amount that can cause an overdose is not much higher than the amount used to treat pain.9
Other risks of using prescription opioids include dependence and addiction. Dependence means feeling withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes a person to compulsively seek out drugs, even though they cause harm.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking opioids for more than three days will increase your risk of addiction.10
It’s important to remember that no one plans to become addicted. Even if you’re following your doctor’s orders and taking your medication exactly as directed, it can happen. Many people simply reach the end of their prescription and realize they’re in over their heads.
If you or someone you know is already dealing with addiction, there are excellent resources that can help. Call the SAMHSA at 1-800-662-HELP or visit their website at findtreatment.gov.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN OPIOID?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol, codeine, morphine, and many others.11
These medicines should only be used to treat extreme short-term pain, like the kind you may feel after surgery. However, misusing prescription opioids risks dependence and addiction.
DOWNLOAD OUR OPIOID DATASHEET
If you’d like more in-depth information on opioids and surgical options that reduce the risk of addiction, download our opioid datasheet.
It features findings from some of the most recent research + lays out potential alternatives to conventional opioid pain medication.
HOW CAN I USE OPIOIDS SAFELY?
1. Talk to your doctor before surgery.
If you’re having surgery, you will have a doctor’s appointment before the surgery. This is often referred to as your “pre-op” appointment. This appointment is when you and your doctor should talk about how you will feel after surgery and whether or not you will need opioid pain medicine.
2. If your doctor says opioids aren’t necessary.
If your doctor thinks you won’t be in a lot of pain after surgery, other types of pain medicine may be needed. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
3. If your doctor says opioids are necessary.
If your doctor thinks you will be in a lot of pain after surgery, opioids might be the right choice. Opioids include hydrocodone and oxycodone. These medicines should only be used to treat extreme short-term pain, like the kind you may feel after surgery.
During your pre-op appointment, you and your doctor should also talk about all the medicines and supplements you already take and how much alcohol you drink. This will help make sure that you are taking any pain medicine safely.
4. Stick to the lowest dose for as few days as possible.
If you need opioids, your doctor should prescribe the lowest possible dose. Three days or fewer will often be enough and more than seven days are only rarely needed for urology procedures. If you’re still in pain after three days, use over-the-counter medicines as recommended by your doctor. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you take those medicines safely. They may also suggest non-drug ways to ease your pain, such as heat or cold therapy.
5. Don’t take opioids for long-term pain.
Opioids should not be used to treat conditions that involve long-term pain. If you see a doctor for conditions like these, ask about other ways to manage your pain. You can also ask to be referred to a pain management specialist.
HOW CAN YOU MANAGE CHRONIC PAIN?
Visit C.O.R.E. (Center for Opioid Research and Education) — a consortium of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and patients dedicated to educating and empowering patients.SOLVETHECRISIS.ORG