How Can My Loved One Use Prescription Opioids Safely?
There are some injuries and illnesses which force their victims to bear pain for long stretches of time, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Waking every day and suffering just to get out of your bed demands relief. But what should you know about when that relief comes through prescription opioids?
We’ve mentioned prescription opioids before, both when we explained what they do and how to dispose of the ones you don’t use. But what can you do when your loved one needs them for chronic pain? How can they take the medication safely?
Here are a few ideas to lessen the risk of opioid addiction.
Get Involved and Stay Involved
Here’s a key principle: make sure that your loved one doesn’t have to receive these drugs alone. Your first and best step is to stay alongside them. Whether they’re your child, spouse, parent, grandparent, or friend, they’ll be better off if you help them through the daily walk of chronic pain.
Here are three day-to-day things you can do for your loved one as they medicate for chronic pain:
Coordinate with the Doctor
Start with your loved one’s doctor. Make sure that you have your loved one’s permission to know their medications and dosages. If you don’t have that, their doctor may not disclose them to you under doctor-patient confidentiality.
If you’re involved at the beginning when your loved one first receives the opioids, you’ll probably know which medication they’re taking and how often. You should keep in touch with the doctor to see if those two things change. If prescription opioids become regular parts of your life, you’d be wise to keep track of them.
We recommend going straight to your doctor if your loved one isn’t completely truthful or forthcoming with you (we’ll mention a few warning signs later). Their doctor, if you have the access, should give you the whole truth, and should care about your loved one too. So start with them, and understand their pain medication as best you can.
One last note: if your loved one’s opioids aren’t working, consider bringing it up with their doctor. Your loved one might not do it themselves—there’s a stigma that sometimes surrounds asking for more prescription opioids, that the patient might seem like an addict. If you ask on their behalf, you might remove that stigma.
Involve Yourself in the Treatment
Again, you should only try this step if you’re able to. If your loved one lives with you or is old enough that they need your help, getting hands-on with them might feel natural. And in that case, getting involved with treatment will probably depend on you first coordinating with the doctor.
Help your loved one with their medication schedule. They might already have one in place. In that case, help them stick to it with gentle reminders or leading questions (“Remind me again when you take xyz?”).
Or they might just be starting a new medication; help them stick exactly to what the doctor prescribes. A prescription isn’t just the kind of drug, but how often you take it, and how much.
This kind of involvement can become a wise kind of accountability. Prescription opioids give the sort of relief that’s easy to want more and more of, especially when the alternative is debilitating pain. If you receive medication all on your own, it might get easier to give yourself just a little extra. But when someone who loves you is looking over your shoulder, you’re more likely to temper that impulse.
Check In With Your Loved One
As you help with all these pills and daily schedules, you have to remember the person, too. Chronic pain can weigh down your loved one. So can relying on daily drugs to do even the little things. Make sure that you know how your loved one is feeling. Medical support will heal them, but so will emotional support.
What you say or ask will depend on the specific relationship. If your loved one speaks honestly about how the opioids are treating them, that’s a victory for you both. But if they don’t answer helpfully, or seem to be hiding something, that becomes an issue.
Check On Your Loved One
If your loved one doesn’t want to discuss how their medications or treatment, consider why. And consider whether they’ve changed since they’ve been taking prescription opioids. You’ll know if you’re being unreasonable, but you should keep a close eye on anything that makes you uneasy.
Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Your loved one takes opioids “just in case” (meaning more than prescribed)
- Their sleep schedule changes
- Your loved one often seems to “lose” their prescription opioids
- They go to other doctors to refill their prescription
- Your loved generally makes poor decisions
These signs might tell you that your loved one’s prescription opioid use has gone beyond simple medication and into addiction.
If you suspect that your loved one is becoming or addicted to their medication, contact their doctor and see what can be done. The doctor won’t just cut off their opioid prescription. Any level of addiction will need a more delicate approach—tapering, just gradually decreasing the amount.
While tapering is more comfortable than going cold turkey on opioids, it’ll still give your loved one discomfort. They’ll need your support, just as they do through any part of the medication process.
So What Now?
Make sure to learn more about prescription opioids. We’ve written content about signs of prescription addiction and about how to dispose of the opioids you no longer need. Wherever you end up looking, just be careful to understand your loved one first. Chronic pain for now often means long-term medication. They’ll need your support and your vigilance to stay addiction-free.
That last part is what Buprenorphine Doctors does, whether through our educational content, our news updates, or our directory of both addiction doctors and opioid treatment centers. Look through our site today and see how else we might help you.