Managing Pain After Surgery – How To Avoid Opioid Addiction?

According to a report published in 2012, more than 300 million people undergo some sort of surgical procedure every year globally.

In 2009, according to a report, 48 million surgical procedures were performed in the US alone.

Pain is one of the most common complaints after surgery. 

Managing pain after surgery is essential from the healing point of view. It activates the synthesis of several important molecules in the body, e.g., the collagen that helps close the site of incision and helps you recover.

However, this pain can be debilitating and frustrating for most people as it hinders them from performing their daily activities. Keeping in view the above fact, your doctor may prescribe you some painkillers after the surgery. 

Most of the time, these include opioid analgesics.

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Approximately 60% of opioid addictions and abuse occur due to legal prescriptions made by physicians. 

Moreover, if you’re a recovering addict, the chances of relapse or the reactivation of a new form of addiction are even higher.

Let’s take a deep dive into this topic to understand what opioid addiction is, how it develops, and what are some of the steps you can take to prevent the addiction. You may contact free drugs rehabilitation center information at Addictionresource.

How does an opioid addiction develop?

Morphine is one of the most common opioid analgesics that physicians prescribe after surgery.

Research in Wiley explains the brief mechanism of the action of morphine and related opioids in the brain.

The brain has opioid receptors that respond to opioid analgesics. 

The activation of these receptors then leads to the release of chemicals like dopamine in the brain to produce a soothing feel.

A possible mechanism of addiction may be the increased rewarding effects of opioid analgesics, which then goes beyond simply relieving pain.

Consequently, they lead to a high possibility of dependence on the analgesic. 

However, research shows that specific brain abnormalities that occur due to chronic use of morphine-derived drugs are the causes of opioid dependence.

Therefore, for people who have had an addiction or are predisposed to addiction, cellular changes due to the consumption of opioids can occur even under a five-day exposure.

Who is at Risk?

Unfortunately, some people are more inclined to fall prey to addiction than others. To understand whether you are prone to developing an addiction or relapse, check the following groups below:

  • A history of drug addiction in the past or a family history of alcoholism.
  • Misuse of analgesics in the past.
  • A family history of drug abuse.
  • Struggling with mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
  • Past child abuse left unresolved or untreated. 

The most crucial factor here is the chronic utilization of an opioid before surgery.

This can lead to an increase in the dosage of the analgesic after surgery, which can further increase the dependence. Mayo Clinic mentions people with the following conditions at risk for addiction:

  • Sleep Apnea
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Fibromyalgia

So, how much medicine can create a drug addiction? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) mentioned that a three-day prescription, or ideally less, may help reduce the chances of developing a drug problem. 

A Checklist you can follow to Avoid Addiction

Although the prescription of opioid analgesics is relatively common even in 2020, yet the side-effects and possible addiction are avoidable.

Here are some of the steps you can follow:

Know the Details about your surgery

The first and foremost thing before undergoing any surgical procedure is to know all the possible details.

Your operating surgeon will be more than willing to share the details of the surgery, along with the anesthesia that the anesthetic team will perform.

Doing this, you can at least get the idea of what to expect after the operation.

Be Open to your doctor about any previous addictions

Before you undergo the surgical procedure, be very open to your doctor about any drugs you have been using in the past.

Also, make sure to tell your doctor about any addiction you’ve had previously. This will help him prescribe the best medication for your pain after the surgery.

But why should you trust your doctor with your addiction?

Won’t he disclose this to your family and friends?

No, he won’t if you don’t want to.

All the doctors are bound by the Hippocratic Oath to serve the patients in their best interest. The Hippocratic Oath prohibits them from disclosing any patient secrets 

So, you can be comfortable to tell everything about your condition.

Because in the end, it’s you who ends up getting into trouble, not your doctor.

Research shows that doctors who were willing to educate their patients on the dangers of drug addiction saw a drop in the use of opioid prescriptions. 

Some doctors encouraged their patients to try alternative methods such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) instead of opioids.

NSAIDs are the regular over-the-counter painkillers that have shown great results with minimum side-effects. Plus, they don’t carry a risk for addiction compared to opioid analgesics

However, the problem with NSAIDs may be the inability to treat pain if the pain is very severe.

Discuss the details with your doctor

Unfortunately, most physicians make the mistake of prescribing to postoperative patients larger doses of opioids than necessary; worse, they do not take the time to educate patients of the potential risks and dangers associated with opioid medications. 

Because of this, patients who do get addicted to pain medication ultimately resort to consuming lethal drugs such as heroin because it’s cheaper, and it gives them a similar effect.

While patients can’t always avoid taking pain medicine, it’s important to stress that they should be educated by their doctors on the dangers of developing an addiction.

Moreover, painkillers shouldn’t be readily available without medical cause, and physicians should be more open to prescribing alternative medicine to help their postoperative patients’ recovery.

While doctors and other medical staff have their share of responsibility to make you well, you share equal responsibility when it comes to requesting the right medicine for you, especially if you have a history of drug addiction. 

It’s best to let your doctor know so they can prescribe the best medicine alternative for you.

Request regional analgesia

Most of the time, pain cannot be avoided after surgery, but fortunately, there are ways to go around this without risking your sobriety. 

With some surgical procedures, the doctor can use an analgesic technique while operating to delay postoperative pain.

Spinal anesthesia is one such technique. It requires your doctor to inject an anesthetic in your spinal cord.

You are fully awake during the surgery, but you don’t feel anything, and the surgical team comfortably performs the procedure.

The best advantage is that there is a very low risk of complications compared to general anesthesia.

Plus, the chances of post-op pain are also reduced. 

While this option is not something that every doctor discusses with his patients, you can bring it up with your doctor and ask for his/ her opinion.

Stop the Medication after Pain relief

Despite the high potential of addiction, your doctor may still prescribe you opioid analgesics.

In that case, the best thing you can do is to have someone check your intake.

Don’t forget to consult your doctor regarding the duration of intake and the number of times per day.

When the pain is not there anymore, STOP taking the medication.

This is easier said than done; however, this can be the difference between a healthy and distorted life.

Consult visiting a Rehabilitation Center

If, by all means, you have developed a drug addiction, what do you do now?

Well, this may not sound very good to those who are not habitual of attending things like support groups.

But, places like that can be beneficial where you can feel understood and well supported.

There are always rehabs around that ensure proper care and rehabilitation after any addiction.

Don’t be afraid of all those weird scenes in the movies; if you’ve developed an addiction, you can drift through the process just fine. 

Plus, you won’t be doing that alone. 

There are many free rehabs that you can contact for support. 

You are not alone, so don’t act as if you are. Talk to your friends and family, have them visit you at home or the hospital. 

You’d be surprised to see what a great distraction they can be and help speed your recovery.

Look for alternative ways to cope with pain

Although medicines always seem like the best choice for any physical and mental pain.

That may not always be true.

Your body needs to maintain a balanced condition for survival. This is referred to in medicine as ‘homeostasis’.

You need to be patient with your body. Surgery is intrusive and takes a toll on the body, which continually works to heal itself. It requires you to do your part. 

While the pain itself may not be that big a challenge, the possible risk of getting addicted is the bigger challenge.

We encourage you to look for alternative ways to cope with post-surgery stress and pain.

Here are some suggestions to keep you away from any possible addiction:

Listen to music  

Did you know that music can soothe the mind by encouraging a peaceful environment for your body to heal?

Now you do.

Research shows that sedative music helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain.

Music is a true blessing as it can freshen your mind up and make you feel more relaxed and better able to adapt to things.

The genre may not matter (of course, rap doesn’t count). Everyone has his personal preferences here, and it would not be tangible to recommend one artist directly.

Anything calm and soothing should do the job.

Practice meditation  

Medication/ Yoga got its origin in the Indian Subcontinent centuries ago.

There is a definite reason behind the popularity of the techniques in the 21st century.

People with busy schedules often find it very comforting meditating because it makes you calmer and better able to cope with daily challenges.

Meditation can help clear the ongoing noise in your mind and help regulate pain, making you feel more at ease.

So, attending Yoga classes may not be a bad choice after all.

Acupuncture  

Acupuncture is a popular Chinese method of treating pain using small needles.

The needles are placed at specific points in your body, which are known more popularly as ‘Pain Points.’

This helps relieve pain for some people.

But, is it as useful for relieving pain as modern medication.

We can’t say.

What we are sure about is that it DOESN’T carry a risk for any sort of addiction.

A study shows that acupuncture can not only help reduce pain, but it has an immediate analgesic effect. Acupuncture can help you reduce the use of painkillers by managing pain more naturally.

Bottomline

The good news is that awareness of opioid addiction is continuously increasing, which can prepare future patients struggling with addiction to take the necessary steps to conquer and understand their illness. 

For those of you who are looking up specialized help, many facilities can help you kickstart your road to recovery.

It’s better to have a detailed discussion with your doctor regarding the medical condition and the surgical management he is looking forward to.

Knowing about all the possible options for treatment, post-op management, and any complications is essential for every patient. A lot of mishaps can be avoided this way. 

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