I recently accompanied my husband on his consult for unexpected outpatient surgery which is now scheduled for the middle of this busy month. When the doctor mentioned post-op pain meds, my dear husband shook his head. When questioned about this, he said he didn’t want any narcotics. The doctor said he’d prefer to write the script, just in case, since the pain meds can’t be called in. But he also indicated that it’s possible my husband will do okay with just over the counter pain meds. This led to a discussion about the whole dilemma of pain medication and my experience of being prescribed way more pain meds than needed for relatively minor surgeries or injuries. My experiences as an addictions counselor have likely added to my frustration.
During the consultation, I appreciated learning more about the prescriber’s perspective: doctors who prescribe less than the standard amount of pain meds, in this case, 30 pills (!), are more likely to be harassed, yelled at and even threatened by patients. They lose patients and can’t stay in business.
What’s a doctor to do?
After hearing this, I’m not as sure as I used to be. And I’m glad I don’t have to be the one between that rock and the hard place.
One solution would be to have more disposal options for unused medication. We’re learning that it’s bad for the environment to flush unused medications, and keeping leftovers around, “just in case” increases the risk of addiction or pills falling into the wrong hands. Though Opiate/narcotic addiction is a particularly bad problem where I live, we only have two medication drop off events per year. Of course, there’s always the burial in a container of damp coffee grounds, which may be the best option we have right now.
I know this is a complicated issue. Some people legitimately need a lot of pain medication. But it’s a slippery slope for those with substance abuse and addiction problems.
Which reminds me, that recovery can be pretty good where I live, too. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, there are all night AA meetings, called Alcathons. These open meetings start at 6pm and run on the even hours until noon Christmas day and New Year’s Day ending in a shared meal. Narcotics Anonymous usually has Narcathons which are similar. I hope these are available where you live.
Here are some links that can help you find meetings:
To all those who suffer from addiction, there is help. Recovery is possible. Find a program, then work the program, every day. Life can get better. One day at a time. Like they often say after the Serenity Prayer:
” Keep coming back, It works if you work it, but you gotta work it every day…and night.”
To all those who do not suffer from addiction, be aware this can be a hard time for those who do. Have plenty of alcohol-free beverages at your social gatherings. Label food and drinks containing alcohol. Even a taste can be a trigger. Invite a recovering friend to go to an alcohol free/drug free event.
May your holidays be holy days, full of peace and joy.
December 9, 2015 at 4:47 pm
Do the pharmacists not readily take back unused medication JoAnna? That is the procedure here in England, and I imagined it to be common practice around the globe.
December 9, 2015 at 4:51 pm
That would be a logical solution and something for me to work on. My pharmacy had one special day, a few months ago, when they took back medication, but they said they can’t do it all the time. I’ll talk to them about it more. Thanks!
December 9, 2015 at 6:01 pm
In Portugal we take unused medication to the pharmacists. If they’re still good they sometimes get redistributed to populations (specially elderly) who can’t afford them. If they’re not good anymore pharmacists have their own means to dispose of them without harming the environment.
December 10, 2015 at 7:13 am
That makes good common sense. I wish we did something like that in the US. Thanks for letting me know and clarifying the fact that it’s certainly possible.
December 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm
I wish your husband the best and most comfortable recovery. I admire his stance as I’m quite stubborn about medication even though I need them no question. (Not pain meds). The last time I got a serious injury and went to the emergency room, I refused pain meds too. For me the pain was a reminder to sleep on my right side and not touch the area too much. It was also a reminder to pray every day and thank God I did not lose my eye. Best wishes.
December 10, 2015 at 7:19 am
Thank you for the best wishes! Pain can serve as an important message in some cases, like the example you shared. For my husband it’s a reminder that he is not Superman and to get help lifting heavy items, especially after the surgery which is for a hernia. I am thankful your eye was saved.
December 10, 2015 at 7:31 am
Thank you Jo Anna. Best wishes.
December 9, 2015 at 8:30 pm
Praying. ❤ .
December 10, 2015 at 7:20 am
Thank you, dear Anna. ❤
December 10, 2015 at 10:05 am
may there be ease
and moving into
natural, pain-free moments.
December 10, 2015 at 8:53 pm
I love that! What a comforting meditation. Thank you, David. 🙂
December 10, 2015 at 7:51 pm
After several surgeries, I had pain medications prescribed. The going theory was to stay ahead of the pain to allow the pain medicines to do their job effectively. It is better to have the prescription than not at all. Abuse happens with many things in life. I prefer disposing of left over meds at drop off spots. Fortunately I am not dependent on pain meds but appreciate what they do so that I can return to “normal” life again. Good luck to your husband.
December 10, 2015 at 8:57 pm
Thank you, for that perspective, Maryann. I can imagine needing stronger than OTC medication for major, moderate, or multiple surgeries. I’m glad you didn’t become dependent. And thanks for the good luck wish!
December 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm
You are welcome. We all the need the repeated reminders and dangers of pain medication.
December 10, 2015 at 10:01 pm
Je passe sur ton blog
Pour lire les nouveautés
Que tu as pu écrire
Tes poésies ou autres
Je te dépose une petite pensée
J’espère une petite note de gaité
Pour agrémenter ta soirée
Je te laisse un sourire
Pour apporter dans ton cœur
Un petit instant de bonheur
Belle soirée , bisous , Bernard
December 11, 2015 at 7:29 pm
Merci, Bernard. For the smile and the friendship! 🙂