Chronic pain is a common condition affecting people of all ages. The most common method used to help manage pain is pain medications.
Some of these are over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol or Advil. Others are regulated and require a prescription from a health care provider. There are also pain medications that reduce inflammation in the body that can further relieve pain.
Whether using over-the-counter or prescription medications, awareness of personal responsibility is vital. Taking medication to help manage pain is beneficial when taken correctly.
One of the main benefits is that it helps chronic pain patients maintain independence and quality of life. This can range from being able to run errands, take care of children and personal care to maintaining full-time employment.
But pain medications can have major risks if misused. Commonly known risks include narcotic dependence or addiction and tolerance.
Tolerance is when long-term use of a pain medicine results in the body failing to respond to the medication as it had earlier. This can mean using increased amounts of the medication to get the same effect or experiencing reduced effects when taking the same amount.
Some medications also incur the risk of organ damage. The biggest risk of all is that medication misuse can lead to overdose or death.
To prevent misuse, it is important to understand your medication:
Make sure you know the name of your medicine and what kind it is.
Double-check your dosage when you pick it up from the pharmacy.
Before taking the medication, discuss with your provider what side effects to expect.
Report complications and severe side effects as soon as possible.
Actively participating in your care is instrumental in maintaining control. Remain open to discussions with your support team on the hard topics such as addiction, tolerance and overdose. Be honest with your provider about your concerns. If you think that you may need help, ask a friend or family member to accompany you and take notes during your medical visits.
Most importantly, make sure you are compliant with your provider’s instructions. If you are uncertain about anything at any time, speak up! Don’t be afraid to say, “I need help.”
Remember, taking control of your medicine requires recognizing when you have lost control.
Chatonia Smalls, LISW-CP, is a behavioral health consultant serving patients in the pain management program at HopeHealth on Palmetto Street in Florence. She is certified by the Association for Social Work Boards and a member of the Council of Nephrology Social Workers. Smalls also is a guardian ad litem for South Carolina DSS and enjoys gardening as a therapeutic intervention to relieve stress.