Is it OK to Take Narcotic Pain Medicine in Recovery?
Heroin is an example of a highly addictive, dangerous opiate drug that can cause users years of pain and misery or even a fatal overdose. Narcotic pain medicine, such as Oxycontin and Percocet, is legitimately prescribed and used to treat certain conditions in patients. However, these drugs are opiates as well, and they can cause the same addiction in some people as heroin does in others. For certain individuals, these drugs are lifesavers, allowing them to live and function normally without chronic pain. For others, they can be destructive and deadly. But what about surgical needs or hospitalizations? Can someone who previously struggled with a drug addiction safely take narcotic pain medicine in some situations?
How Narcotic Pain Medicine Works
Heroin and narcotic pain medicine like morphine are not the same exact drugs, but they do come from the same place. All opiate medications, just like heroin, come from the opium poppy plant. Some are totally synthetic, while others are natural. Examples of these drugs include:
These drugs all work on the opiate receptors in the brain. They reduce pain, slow down respiratory processes (breathing), and cause sedation and euphoria. Over time, these drugs can be extremely physically addictive. Some patients who suffer from chronic pain or pain from terminal illnesses are prescribed these drugs for long-term treatment. They are also used to treat acute pain, like that caused by surgery, injuries, or conditions like kidney stones.
Can I Take Narcotic Pain Medicine in Recovery?
For most people in recovery, avoiding narcotic pain medicine is a part of staying sober. Using these drugs without being directed to do so by a doctor is considered a relapse. Even using them when they are prescribed is considered a bad idea by many people in recovery, because there are usually other options for treating pain, and taking these medications can lead to addictive behavior and drug use.
Some people who undergo serious surgeries in their sobriety may not be able to avoid taking narcotic pain medicine. In these cases, the best course of action has to be decided upon by the individual patient, their doctor, their sponsor, and their sober support network. For some major surgeries, these medications may be necessary. In these cases, many recovering individuals may give the medication to their sponsor to hold or may decide to take it only as prescribed while in the hospital and not fill any other prescriptions once they are home. Some others may decide not to take narcotic pain medicine at all in order to avoid the potential risk of relapse. This decision must always be made based on what is best for the individual and their sobriety.
Avoiding Narcotic Pain Medicine at the Hospital
In my personal experience, I have had multiple occasions in which doctors have tried to give me narcotic pain medicine while I was hospitalized. I suffer from chronic kidney stones, an extremely painful condition. However, in my experience, taking narcotic pain medicine is too much of a risk to my sobriety, even if it’s offered to me in the hospital. In order to stay sober, protect myself, and treat my pain, I avoid narcotic pain medicine and opt for treatment methods that have less of a risk of causing a relapse. It can be tempting to accept narcotic pain medicine at the hospital, especially when dealing with severe pain. After multiple hospitalizations, I’ve picked up some tips for avoiding using narcotic pain medicine:
- Bring a sober friend to the hospital who can hold you accountable
- Tell hospital staff and doctors that you are in recovery or that you cannot take any narcotics
- Ask for non-narcotic pain medicine options (there are a few that work just as well as opiates, without the euphoria and addictive qualities)
- Don’t accept take-home prescriptions for narcotic pain medicine
In my experience, communicating with my doctor and the nurses has always helped me to get non-narcotic medication and treatment that relieves my pain and doesn’t put me at risk of relapsing. This decision is always up to the individual, but for me, avoiding narcotic pain medicine at the hospital is the best choice for protecting my sobriety.
Treating Addiction to Narcotic Pain Medicine
Addiction is painful and destructive, whether it involves dependence on illegal drugs like heroin or narcotic pain medicine prescribed by a doctor. If you are unable to stop using opiates or other drugs despite wanting to or needing to, or if you were sober but backslid and are using again, Wellness Retreat Recovery can help. Call us today at 888-821-0238 for information about addiction treatment.