toll free: 844.955.3042
local tel: 561.464.6505
fax: 561.450.6637

RECO Intensive
140 NE 4th Avenue
Delray Beach, FL 33483

My Medical Procedure May Require Painkillers. What Do I Do?

For many in recovery, painkillers can be a scary thing to encounter. The need to remain sober and stay away from addictive substances is imperative, but sometimes pain-numbing measures need to be taken for effective medical procedure recovery. Continue reading to learn what you should do.

Prescriptions for Pain Relief

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many doctors prescribe opioids for severe pain relief after surgeries and other medical procedures. The most common opioid prescriptions include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine. 

Some patients can take their post-procedure prescription and recover without any addictive issues, while others experience adverse reactions to prescription drugs. Some of these negative side effects may include:

  • Tolerance (more medication is required for similar pain relief)
  • Dependence (the patient experiences symptoms of withdrawal after use has stopped)
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Itching and sweating
  • Fatigue/sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Those in recovery know that addictive substances can have substantial risks. According to the CDC, the likelihood of opioid abuse skyrockets after just three days of use. The CDC also confirms that prescription opioids are responsible for the majority of opioid addictions. However, even with these risks, painkillers still may be needed for a medical procedure.

Coping with Anxiety and Fear

Fear of surgery and other medical procedures is normal. Fear of the painkillers you might need afterward is normal, too — especially for someone in recovery or someone who has abstained from addictive substances for a long time. 

To help ease your anxiety and fear about prescription drug abuse, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor may have limited knowledge about your prior addiction or your time in recovery. Be honest about how the prospect of relapse makes you feel, and ask a lot of questions. Your doctor can assess your need for opioid prescriptions and be open with you about the risks. Your doctor can also formulate a plan of action for you to recover from your procedure safely.

Some doctors don’t like to prescribe opioids to patients with a history of addiction, which requires further exploration. There may be new methods of pain relief that don’t require opioids for a specific procedure. Look into alternative and holistic approaches to pain relief, with the realistic understanding that they may not be enough for your specific procedure.

Avoiding Addiction or Relapse With the “Stepladder Approach”

Despite the fear and risks of those in recovery being prescribed opioids for a procedure, painkillers might be unavoidable. There are standards of care that doctors must follow, as spelled out by the World Health Organization (WHO). This approach is often referred to as the “analgesic ladder” or the “stepladder approach.” 

The analgesic ladder was initially created for the regulation of prescription drugs given to cancer patients. By measuring the amount of pain compared to the prescription that should accompany it, this approach can prevent doctors from overprescribing prescription drugs. 

The WHO’s analgesic ladder originally had three steps, but a fourth step was also added.

Step 1 – Mild Pain: Non-opioid analgesics such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen with or without adjuvants (a drug or substance used to increase the efficacy or potency of certain medications).

Step 2 – Moderate Pain: Weak opioids with or without non-opioid analgesics and with or without adjuvants. Examples include hydrocodone, codeine, and tramadol.

Step 3 – Severe and Persistent Pain: Potent opioids with or without non-opioid analgesics and with or without adjuvants. Examples include morphine, methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone, buprenorphine, tapentadol, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone).

Step 4 – Invasive and Minimally Invasive Treatments: This approach makes the ladder bi-directional and is meant to intervene and find options for certain types of surgery.

Options for Pain Management

According to the WHO and a study published by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, several approaches for pain management are specifically designed for those who have struggled with substance abuse. These approaches involve careful consideration of the analgesic ladder as well as the patient’s individual needs.

  • Correct drug prescription: This may mean that the patient doses orally rather than intravenously or rectally and considers whether the drug is too weak or strong enough to manage the patient’s pain. This requires careful analysis on the part of the doctor.
  • Around-the-clock care, not around-the-clock pain relief: Allowing the patient to administer pain relief at their leisure can quickly lead to substance abuse or accidental overdose. The medical staff should be providing around-the-clock care and boundaries for addictive substances.
  • Analgesics that fit pain intensity: Clinical evaluation is needed to ensure that prescriptions fit the pain intensity (as per the analgesic ladder).
  • Individualized therapy: Addressing the concerns of the patient is a must. Therapy can help communicate any signs of addiction or withdrawal and ensure that the client takes the appropriate dosage.
  • Proper pain adherence: Pain is a medical emergency and should be treated as one. Doctors should never ignore signs of pain and maintain consistent and open communication.

For those who have been through addiction recovery before, you already know to look for physical dependence and increased tolerance. Make sure your doctor is aware, so together, you can work on watching old habits and recovering safely from your medical procedure.

Opioid addiction is not inevitable for every medical procedure. Those who struggle with addiction might worry about an upcoming procedure and the possibility of requiring prescribed painkillers. Having the strength to overcome addiction once can help you do it again. Knowing the warning signs of substance abuse or dependency is always helpful to prevent prescription drug addiction. Honest and consistent communication with your doctor is vital when you’re unsure, and your doctor may have a differing view of your need for prescription opioids. If you need more support to calm your anxieties about your upcoming procedure, try RECO Intensive. At RECO Intensive, our specialized staff and experienced alumni will help you find the tools to get through your procedure and your recovery safely. RECO Intensive offers inpatient and outpatient care for those struggling with opioid and prescription drug abuse and many other types of substance or behavioral addiction. For more information and support, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

Recent Articles

Discover a better life and call our recovery helpline today.