Handling Pain Medication Responsibly in Addiction Recovery

August 20, 2012 Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

Last week I had the distinct (snicker) pleasure of having to visit my dentist due to an abscess. After a brief consultation I decided to have the tooth extracted. It was at this time that the hygienist recommended a narcotic pain killer. I declined and said I would take Extra Strength Tylenol.

Why Refuse a Narcotic Painkiller?

You might be asking why I refused the narcotic medication. First, as a recovering addict, it is vital that I take all necessary precautions to prevent a relapse. The wrong medication at the wrong time could prove to be disastrous. This was not the first time I refused a narcotic painkiller. I’ve had several procedures in the past where I chose to pass on this type of drug and simply deal with the discomfort.

Handling Prescription Pain Killers Responsibly

Before you get the wrong idea, I am not saying that I would refuse a narcotic for any given surgical procedure. There are times when it is absolutely necessary that a narcotic be administered to deal with pain. The key is to take the medication responsibly. This means AS DIRECTED. No doubling doses or taking more frequently than prescribed. It also means that I may need to have someone help administer the medication. In my circle this is not an uncommon practice, especially for those addicts early in recovery.

There may also be times when narcotics must be used due to the degree of pain involved. No one needs to be a martyr and we all have a different threshold for pain. In the end only you can decide how much pain is tolerable.

Be Honest With Your Physician

Another consideration has to do with doctors. Most all physicians, especially those you are seeing them for the first time, have a questionnaire that new patients complete. Typically, there is some kind of question about drug/alcohol use. It is very important that this question(s) is answered honestly. If not answered appropriately the doctor has no way of knowing that you may have an addiction history and may prescribe a narcotic.

Even though you may never have used narcotics it does not mean that they will not trigger a relapse. There have been times when a painkiller may simply open the door for the addict’s drug of choice.

Your recovery is invaluable. Please do not fall into the trap of using a prescribed painkiller thinking that no harm can be done. In the end, it’s your choice.

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2012, August 20). Handling Pain Medication Responsibly in Addiction Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

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