Opioid Review: A Painless Conversation about Pain

Opioid Review: A Painless Conversation about Pain

If you have a chronic condition or have ever recovered from an injury or illness, you know how difficult coping with pain can be. Pain management has become a controversial topic. The current epidemic of addiction to opioid pain medications is a source of heated debate – and for good reason.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Legal prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) are part of the class, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that more than 80 percent of the 80,411 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid.

Opioid deaths continue to rise — seeing a dramatic rise from 2019 to 2021. 

One of the challenges in dealing with pain is that it is subjective. Physicians must rely on our description about its intensity, which can make it hard to judge how much medication a person needs.

Chronic pain is difficult to treat. To begin with, what exactly is chronic pain? A typical definition is pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. The side effects of chronic pain can be severe. Limited mobility and a poorer quality of life are two.

Talk with Your Doctor

If you’re experiencing chronic pain, or if your pain medications aren’t working, meet with your doctor. Here are some questions you might ask to start the discussion:

  • What is the cause of my pain?
  • What type of medication is being used to treat my pain?
  • Does it pose any dangers?
  • Can it be addictive?
  • How long will it take for the medication to work?
  • How long will I be taking it?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • Are there other ways to treat my pain?

Acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, spinal manipulation and yoga may help relieve your pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports, “a growing body of evidence suggests that some complementary approaches may help to manage some painful conditions.”

Talk with your doctor. Many hospitals offer a variety of alternative treatments. 

Worried about Addiction?

No matter how you and your doctor decide to treat your pain, here’s the important thing to remember: Your pain needs to be controlled in a safe and effective way. By using safety as the starting point, you’ll be able to plan ways to lessen or eliminate your pain.

Sources: Understanding Drug Overdoses and Deaths, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023; Opioids, leaving site icon National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2022; Chronic Pain: In Depth, leaving site icon National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2023

Originally published 5/17/2017; Revised 2017, 2021, 2023