Taking painkillers? Avoid addiction or dependence (En)
Prescription drug abuse is a scourge in Kentucky and across the nation. But the latest issue of the Harvard Health Letter points out that the vast majority of people who use powerful prescription painkillers don’t have a problem with them.
Dr. Karsten Kueppenbender, an addiction psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, acknowledges that opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin can be addictive. Patients can also become physically dependent on the drugs, meaning they may suffer withdrawal if they suddenly stop taking them. (Addiction means compulsive use and preoccupation that interferes with normal life.)
Still, Harvard health officials say 97 percent of users don’t have a problem with opioids.
To reduce the risk of dependence or addiction, the doctor advises:
-If you are prescribed narcotic painkillers after minor surger, they should be limited to no more than seven days.
-If you are prescribed painkillers for a longer period of time, take them by the clock as prescribed.
-Don’t try to reduce your risk of addiction by cutting your dose and waiting until the pain gets really bad. That can backfire as your pain returns full-force and the pills bring relief.
-If you are taking the pills for a long time, make sure you are working with a medical team that has a strict protocol for patients on narcotic painkillers — including monthly checkups and random urine screenings.