Post provided by Barbara Bergin, M.D.
In my line of work, I get a lot of requests for pain pills. The majority of patients who need them have either just had surgery or an injury, like a fracture. And most people stop taking the pain pills as soon as they feel they don’t need them. Sometimes they wean themselves off of them by lowering the numbers of pills they take, or gradually increasing the interval of time in between the narcotics. Sometimes they supplement the pain medications with non-narcotic pain relievers.
But sometimes patients continue to take pain pills. Weeks and even months go by, and they continue to request large doses of pain pills. It’s really hard for some of our patients to gauge how many pain pills they should be taking or how to wean themselves off of them. They start getting into a habit of taking the pills. Maybe they think that if they are experiencing any pain at all, they should go ahead and take the pain pill. Sometimes they use the pain pills to help them sleep at night. And sometimes they use them in order to be able to function without pain during the day. These are all problematic ways in which to use pain pills.
In my opinion it is best to stop taking pain pills as soon as possible. Pain doesn’t actually “hurt” you. It’s a sensation; like hunger or itching. Just because you are hungry, it doesn’t mean you absolutely have to eat. And you don’t have to scratch when you have an itch. You don’t have to relieve pain every time you feel it.
Addiction to prescription narcotic medications is a serious national health problem. In my next blog I’ll talk about some things patients can do to minimize their use of pain pills.