No one is immune to prescription painkiller addiction, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Take your prescription as prescribed.
Talk about your medication with your doctor, and read over the labels and instructions on your prescription when you get it at the pharmacy. If you have any questions, make sure to talk to the pharmacist about them; they have been trained to help patients understand their prescriptions. Once you feel you know how you are meant to take your opioid medication, follow those instructions carefully and thoughtfully. Misusing your prescription painkiller by taking a higher dose than prescribed, or by taking your dose more frequently than prescribed, greatly increases your chance of developing an addiction.
- Take prescription painkillers for no more than seven days.
Seven days is almost always a sufficient period of time to take strong painkillers for injury or surgery. After that, you may still have pain, but you can most likely manage it with rest, alternative treatments, and over the counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Seven days is also a safe period of time to avoid physical dependency and tolerance. Studies have shown that taking prescription opioids for 30 days or longer greatly increases your risk of addiction.
- Try alternative pain treatments.
Consult your doctor, or ask for a referral, to find out about alternative methods of pain relief, such as mindfulness training, yoga, and acupressure. These methods can be very helpful, and do not make you vulnerable to addiction or overdose.
- Understand your risk factors.
Although anyone could potentially become addicted to prescription painkillers, there are some factors that can put you in a higher risk category.
- Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can make you more vulnerable to addiction, and furthermore, addiction can cause or exacerbate mental health disorders, so that the two problems feed on each other.
- Genetics play a part in addiction. If a susceptibility to substance misuse and dependency runs in your family, you need to be extra careful about your use of addictive prescription drugs.
- Environment can also play a big role in addiction. Being around substance abuse can normalize it as a coping mechanism, and greatly increase your odds of developing an addiction.
- Never use painkillers that were not prescribed to you, even if you are in pain.
See a doctor about your problem, or use over the counter medications, but never take prescriptions that were given to you by a friend or family member. You have no way of knowing if that particular drug or drug formulation is right for your body. There are short and long-acting opioids, and different levels of potency and dosages, and taking too much can lead to an overdose, even if this is your first time taking the medication.
Addictions.com is here to help you learn more about substance misuse and addiction. We can also connect you to the best rehab facility for you, if you recognize that you need treatment.