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.