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4 Tips for Helping People with Chronic Pain Avoid Prescription Opioid Addiction
Prescription painkillers are becoming a serious problem in America. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 40 Americans die each day due to overdosing on prescription painkillers. As early as 2013, approximately 1.9 million people either were abusing or were relying on prescription opiates. In 2014, 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers were reported, and between 1999 and 2014 more than 165,000 people died in the United States due to prescription opioid overdoses.
Today, prescription painkillers are responsible for at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths. Obviously, the United States has an opioid prescription epidemic on its hands. That’s why it’s more important now than ever before to help people with chronic pain to avoid prescription opioid addiction.
1. Get educated on prescription opioids – Education is one of the best ways to combat prescription opioid addiction. If you or a loved one has chronic pain, it is important to talk to a health care provider and do the research to know as much as possible about prescription opioids.
We share some of the most important prescription opioid facts here, to get you started:
●     The drugs most commonly involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths are methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), and hydrocodone (Vicodin)
●     Prescription opioid overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years
●     Prescription opioid overdose rates are higher among non-Hispanic whites and American Indian or Alaskan Natives, as compared to non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics
●     Men are more likely to die from a prescription opioid overdose, but the gap in mortality rates between man and women is closing
●     Prescription opioid abuse and addiction are on the rise – in 2014, nearly 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids
●     As many as 25% of people who receive prescription opioids long-term for non-cancer care struggle with addiction
●     Every day, more than 1,000 people receive treatment in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids
2. Ask for alternative treatments – If you are concerned about a loved one who has a propensity for addiction taking prescription opioids, discuss your concerns with the doctor and consider asking for alternative treatments. Non-opioid drugs, such as antiepileptic drugs, antidepressants, and antiarrhythmic drugs are effective in treating pain.
Psychological therapies along with physical and occupational therapies are other alternatives to prescription opioids. Sometimes, doctors must collaborate with peers to determine the best alternative treatments and courses of action when treating patients with chronic pain.
If medical professionals determine that a person who has both chronic pain and a propensity for addiction absolutely must take a prescription opioid, it is possible to put some safeguards in place. For example, the patient may receive psychological counseling while taking the opioids.
Another option is for the doctor to establish some guidelines for the patient while taking the prescription opioids, including receiving them from only that doctor and from only one pharmacy. The doctor also may order drug tests or indicate that lost medicine will not be replaced.
3. Determine the risk factors before beginning a prescription opioid regimen – It is well within a patient’s rights to discuss the risk factors of taking a prescription opioid with a health care professional before taking the medication. Knowing the risk factors and weighing the benefits and risks is one of the best courses of action to take to help people with chronic pain avoid prescription opioid addiction.
Risk factors include a history of addiction to prescription medicine or illicit drugs, addiction to alcohol or tobacco, a family history of addiction, and a family history of mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders such as PTSD, thought disorders such as schizophrenia, and personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder.
4. Be aware of the warning signs when someone with chronic pain takes prescription opioids
Of course, you should be aware of the warning signs of opioid addiction before it is out of control. If your loved one with chronic pain is taking prescription opioids and exhibits any of the following warning signs, you should seek professional help immediately:
●     Drowsiness
●     Change in sleep habits
●     Decreased libido
●     Weight loss
●     Changes in exercise habits or energy level
●     Loss of relationships and social connections
●     Changes in work or school habits
If your loved one is lying to you or his health care provider, it is an indication that he may be addicted to the prescription opioids. Discussing the problem is a must, and it is important to include the doctor in the discussion. 
There is an indirect link between prescription painkillers and suicide, so please seek help if a family member or friend is or even might be addicted to prescription painkillers. While it may be more common for those suffering from chronic pain to accidentally overdose on prescription opioids than it is to commit suicide with them, women are at a greater risk for suicide with prescription opioids than men. Prescription painkillers are a cause of depression, and people living with chronic pain already are at an increased risk for suicide because of their condition.
Image via Pixabay by chezbeate
Jennifer McGregor is the co-creator of, which was made for one of her pre-med classes as a project. With the site, she intends to provide various resources pertaining to medical inquiries and general health. When Jennifer is not busy being a student, she enjoys walking her dog through the park.

*Note: Peaceful Warriors does not treat, cure, or diagnose illnesses or conditions. Information shared here is simply for informational purposes only. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction or is suicidal it's important to get appropriate medical and/or psychological care from a licensed healthcare professional. 

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