By: Dr. Mike Shah, Interventional Pain Specialist & Pain Management Board Certified Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in Dallas
At the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, the majority of our patients come to us because they are in pain. And contrary to popular belief, many of those patients don’t need surgery to relieve their pain. Through innovative interventional pain management procedures, nonsurgical therapy and rehabilitation, pain relief is possible with no incisions at all. However, sometimes medication is also needed.
Addiction and substance abuse in America have increased significantly and pain medication misuse has become a dangerous problem. It is safe to say the United States is in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic. Often times medicine that is intended to help becomes a source of pain for many because of its misuse.
How can patients take steps to heal without the fear of misuse? We have developed four tips to help ease the fear of misuse when a pain medication is prescribed for proper pain management.
1. Follow doctor’s orders
Closely following dosage and the doctor’s orders can help ensure patients are taking the proper amounts to aid with pain relief but not more than is prescribed.
2. Know the signs of substance misuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes a person who misuses drugs as someone who takes drugs at a higher dosage than prescribed, combines drugs with alcohol or other drugs, and someone who takes drugs through different forms of administration such as snorting pills. Being aware of these signs can be vital to understanding substance misuse. Noticing a personal change in the frequency or dosage of medication you’re taking can be a red flag.
3. Stay alert for early signs of trouble
If you notice you’re not taking the drug as prescribed, or if you begin missing school, work, etc., see your doctor immediately and inform him that you are concerned you may be developing a dependency on your pain medication.
4. Upon doctor’s orders, stop taking pain medication once the pain has stopped
Once the injury has healed and the pain has subsided or decreased to a tolerable level, it is important not to lean on pain medication as a crutch. If you experience withdrawal symptoms after ending medication, seek medical attention immediately. It is important not to leave pain medication unattended where it can be used by anyone else. You can return unused medication to your pharmacy to keep your family members safe and avoid misuse.
Not everyone who misuses prescription medication becomes dependent. But any misuse must be addressed so it doesn’t develop further.
Substance misuse affects many people and families every single day. Knowing how and what to watch out for and how to handle any issues that may arise can make all the difference.
Interventional Pain Specialist & Pain Management Board Certified Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Minimally Invasive Spine Institute
Dr. Shah is a Harvard-trained physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation who has been dedicated to the eradication of pain in the Dallas area since 2003. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Duke University and his medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Shah also received a master’s in Pharmacology from Tulane and a Master of Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health. Following this, he completed his Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency at Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, consistently recognized as one of the Top 5 Pain Management Hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report.