6 Things to Think About Before Taking an Opioid

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Opioids have become a topic that, we as a nation, are learning not to take lightly. At IWP, we strive to empower people to make informed decisions about their medications. Specifically, when considering opioids for chronic pain, there are important considerations to take into account to help ensure they are used only when their benefits outweigh their risks.

By binding to receptors, opioids relieve pain and reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. While opioids can be effective at this task, they are not always right for everyone – or for every pain. Before beginning an opioid regimen, consider watching this eight part series from the American Chronic Pain Association, as they do a tremendous job reviewing important points associated with opioids and their use.

There are also many resources available to injured individuals to help make more informed decisions when dealing with and treating chronic pain.

Here are 6 Things to Think About Before Beginning an Opioid Regimen:

  1. Know what you want to accomplish. Having goals for your pain and function can help you decide what type of plan you want to make to help manage pain now and at future follow up appointments.
  2. Before turning to opioids, see if there are other medications or therapies that can be tried alone or in combination to help manage pain. These alternative options may actually work better and have fewer risks and side effects. Often, many therapies working together can manage pain without opioids.
  3. Understand potential risks of opioids. Some potential risks or adverse effects of opioids include constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, sleepiness and dizziness, confusion, depression and physical dependence.
  4. Know how to properly store and dispose of medications by following guidance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is important to understand how responsible use of medications may mean pre-planning how you will safeguard them.
  5. Understand what type of monitoring will be involved, including understanding what an opioid contract and opioid agreement are. Often, monitoring can take place every 4 weeks during opioid therapy, with an initial assessment often sooner than that.
  6. Take an active role in managing your pain. Stay involved and informed while managing your pain and continue to use resources to your benefit.

If you chose to start taking an opioid, it’s important to know that just because one is started, doesn’t mean it will be the best choice to continue it. Sometimes side effects, adverse effects or reactions end up being more trouble than they are worth – leaving the downsides of a medication outweighing the benefit.

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Continued assessment of the medication and its effects of treating pain and meeting goals will help decide what medications should be kept, what doses should be changed and what should be stopped.


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