When Offered a Prescription for Opioids, Consider Following These Tips

Man holds prescription
Photo by Fertnig/iStockPhoto.com

When pharmaceutical companies began strongly encouraging the use of opioid painkillers in the late-1990s and the early-2000s, they assured the medical community and the public at large that such drugs were not addictive. This was soon exposed as a falsehood, as thousands of Americans across the country quickly became hooked on the very drugs that were supposed to make their lives better and give them pain relief.

Since the turn of the century, millions of Americans have become addicted to opioid pain meds, and tens of thousands have died from overdoses on these substances. As a matter of fact, thousands of Americans die every year from overdoses on painkillers.

Given how dangerous painkillers are, patients would do well to be very cautious when offered a prescription. Patients should follow a series of guidelines when offered painkillers, including doing independent research, asking questions about dosage and duration, seeking a second opinion, etc.

Even for pain symptoms as simple as post-surgery or post-injury pain, taking opioids can end in devastating consequences. It's critical to approach an acute or chronic pain condition with caution and follow a route towards pain relief that has the least risk possible.

Advice on What to Do When Presented with a Prescription for an Opiate Pain Reliever

Prescription opioids are addictive. There is no denying that. And because of that, it is crucial to be cautious when one is offered a prescription for such drugs. People need to take special care and proceed with caution when faced with such medications. They may want to ask for alternatives.

Here are some suggestions to follow when given an opioid prescription:

Man researching about prescription drugs
Photo by DNY59/iStockPhoto.com
  • Patients should always do their own, independent research. A doctor's advice is valuable, but it should always be accompanied by fact-checking, reading independent studies, examining alternatives, looking at CDC, NIDA, and WHO guidelines, etc. One should not let their decision to take or avoid opiates be wholly determined by one doctor’s suggestion.
  • Seek a second opinion. It’s often wise to seek the advice of another medical professional to determine if an opioid painkiller is necessary to treat one's pain, or if a safer, less addictive option may be more suitable.
  • A patient advocate should also be utilized. Patient advocates help patients communicate with their healthcare provider to ensure that the patient gets the information they need to make an informed decision about their care.
  • A patient should ask questions of their doctor. When presented with an opioid option, patients should inquire about side effects, addiction risk, how long the patient should be on the drug, their alternatives, etc.
  • Patients should ensure that terms are defined. Medical terms can get confusing, and if a patient is not given enough time with their doctor, these terms may be glossed over. But a patient should ask their doctor the definitions of words like addiction, dependence, withdrawal, overdose, opiate, opioid receptor, etc. The better the patient can understand the terminology involved with prescribing opioids, the better they'll be equipped to make an informed and safe decision.
  • Patients should always bring a notepad and take notes. Actual face time with the doctor is often only a few short minutes, which is a shame. Doctors should give patients more time than that, and doing so is currently being advocated for. But given how little time patients usually have with their doctors, patients should be sure to take a notepad and pen and take plenty of notes during the conversation so they can perform independent research later on.
  • Patients should always ask their doctors if any natural remedies may accomplish some pain relief. Not all doctors are experts in natural or alternative approaches to pain relief, but depending on the type of pain a patient is experiencing and where that pain is coming from, a patient's doctor may recommend a natural pain reliever that is non-addictive.

The Value of a Non-Opioid Route Towards Pain Relief

Woman prepping the natural remedies drink
Photo by gpointstudio/iStockPhoto.com

Though the medical community does not recommend them as often as many would like, there are natural remedies and holistic solutions for pain relief. Here are a few options that patients might look into:

  • Boswellia Serrate (Indian frankincense)
  • SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)
  • Capsaicin (Capsicum frutescens)
  • Turmeric/Curcumin (Curcuma longa)
  • Avocado-soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)
  • Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
  • Fish Oil (Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA)
  • Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Those are all-natural medicines recommended by the Arthritis Foundation for treating inflammatory pain and other pains connected to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), and other, arthritis-related conditions. However, such treatments may be beneficial in treating other forms of pain too. The key is to research and explore options that may provide pain relief without creating a risk for addiction.

Addiction Treatment—What to Do When Painkillers Cause Addiction

Those who have already begun taking opiate painkillers and who have become addicted to those drugs must seek help at qualified drug and alcohol rehab centers to get off those drugs.

Drug treatment centers can offer workable rehabilitation programs that not only bring people down off of drugs but which also help them work through the underlying issues and struggles that set them on a path of drug use in the first place. And for those who got hooked on opiates because they initially started taking them for pain relief, some drug rehabs can help recovering addicts address their pain without turning to addictive substances.

If you or someone you care about needs help with drug addiction, please contact Narconon today.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.