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Pain Management Expert Q&A

Created On Wednesday, 05, February 2020
Modified On Monday, 21, September 2020

If a person takes prescribed pain medication, will they always become addicted?

No, addiction, dependence, and abuse are different complications.

How long does it take the body to become physically dependent on medication?

Usually for about three days. There is research that recommends shortening dosing days and staying under 3-5 days to help promote shorter use of opiates. Long-acting forms of these drugs also increase the risk of long term use and more potential for dependency and addiction.

DRS femme2A

If a person must take narcotic medication, how can they avoid becoming addicted?

The best advice I give patients is to understand what type of pain you're using medication for. Is this acute pain? Chronic pain? Emotional pain? Understanding the why can better prepare patients for the appropriate medications to be used. Also, take the least amount of medication for the shortest amount of time and don’t rely solely on the idea of being “pain-free”. There is always some pain with disease processes and teach patients other ways to reduce the feelings of pain. Distracting techniques can benefit patients, so the amount of pain medications needed is the lowest possible.

What can a person with chronic pain do to avoid or lower their need for narcotics?

The best way to reduce chronic pain is nonpharmacological methods. It starts with a healthy lifestyle choice and a strong foundation of nutrition. However, if chronic pain has made life unbearable, there are tools such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, massage, acupuncture, along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and then low dose medication that is temporary in use. Also seeking the treatment from specialized pain doctors that can help identify root causes of chronic pain and look for non-pharmacological solutions. This may include injections into trigger points, nerve stimulators, or decompressions. Seeking all non-pharmacological solutions first before settling into a lifelong plan of pain medication.


Anna Smith, ACNP-G-BC - Author

More Information

Anna Smith has been a nurse practitioner since January 2017. She was a registered nurse for 20 years and then transitioned into an acute care nurse practitioner to broaden her profession opportunities and have a greater impact on the patients she treats. Since June 2017, she works for a large in-hospital internal medicine group, specializing in Palliative Care and pain management. Many of her chronic pain patients struggle with dependency and addiction issues. As a by-product of the patient population she sees, she has gained experience in the field of addiction. Anna has an amazing daughter that struggled with addiction. To her, she is a testament to perseverance, and she has enlightened her about the recovery process from a very personal perspective. This intimate awareness has allowed her to see the gravity of addiction today.