What If You Need Pain Medication?
Going into abstinence-based recovery at a residential drug treatment center evokes many feelings and worries among the people who take that important step. What if you have a genuine need for pain medication after you’ve begun your recovery? What happens if you’re in treatment and you’re doing well, but then you require some kind of surgery?
This actually happens all the time—because of root canals or extractions at the dentist’s office or some kind of recommended surgical intervention. Many people, in fact, find their initial trouble with addiction results from taking opiate pain pills because of a painful medical condition like a sore back or an old knee injury. If they’re in treatment and pain pills are prohibited, what are they supposed to do?
In cases of minor surgery or dental procedures, taking ibuprofen at a strength of 800 mg can be enough to make the pain tolerable. There are additional adjunctive measures you can take to feel better, faster:
- Some medications do not fall under the label of opiate pain pills but they provide effective treatment. Toradol (ketorolac) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that is used only for painful injuries or postoperatively, and for short-term use only. It is not addictive.
- Some doctors will prescribe Ultram (tramadol) for pain, but counselors at residential drug treatment centers frown on it. Ultram is a synthetic drug, but chemically it’s very much like codeine, and it can be addictive. Stay away from it.
- Ask your doctor, if ibuprofen really does not help, whether you can take both ibuprofen and acetaminophen. You can never take ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin together in any combination, because they are all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, but acetaminophen falls into a different category. If your doctor isn’t certain, ask your pharmacist. The general recommendation would be to take both of them as directed on the label. Be certain you don’t have any medical conditions that contraindicate either of those medications.
- Use a cold pack in conjunction with your ibuprofen. Cold therapy can reduce swelling in tissues and decrease the sensation of pain. Apply a cold pack for 15-20 minutes every four to six hours for pain.
- Some doctors recommend moist heat. The easiest way to do this outside of a physical therapy center is to wet down a towel and toss it into the dryer until it is warm but still wet. Wrap it around the affected area.
- You can purchase a TENS unit from a variety of places, including Amazon and one of the home shopping networks. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. You apply small electrodes to the area where you feel pain, such as your back or knee, and little electrical shocks delivered to your skin interrupt the pathway between the nerves and the brain so that you get some pain relief. Many people swear by these small portable devices.
- Many practitioners offer acupuncture to handle postoperative pain. Acupuncture is also an effective treatment for managing addiction, so this option seems doubly effective. Talk to your doctor about it.
- You can also ask whether hypnosis would help you manage your acute or chronic pain. Hypnosis has been used to help cancer and arthritis patients. Undergoing hypnosis prior to surgery can help you relax postoperatively for a better, faster recovery.
If your intention is to complete residential treatment, move into aftercare, and do whatever you can to avoid the need for addictive drugs like opiate pain pills, be assured that it’s an achievable goal. Even while you’re in treatment you will learn meditation and relaxation techniques that you can put to good use if a minor medical issue arises. If all else fails and you feel as if you really cannot manage without pain medication, then put your doctor in touch with your substance abuse counselor. They will come up with a postoperative care plan that makes sense for your needs.