Safe Use of Opiate Pain Medicine: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Pain is your body's way of warning you that something is wrong. Pain feels different for everybody. Only you can describe your pain.

A doctor can suggest or prescribe many types of medicines for pain. These range from non-prescription medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to powerful medicines called opiates.

Opiates work well to relieve pain. But they also can cause problems, especially if they are taken too often or in too large a dose. They can interact with other medicines, or they may make it hard for you to do your job or to think clearly. They can even cause death. For these reasons, doctors are very careful about how they prescribe opiates.

The doctor carefully considered what pain medicine is right for you. You may not have received opiate pain medicine if your doctor was concerned about drug interactions or your safety, or if he or she had other concerns.

It is best to have one doctor or clinic treat your pain. This way you will get the pain medicine that will help you the most, and a doctor will be able to watch for any problems that the medicine might cause.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Try other ways to reduce pain:
    • Relax, and reduce stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can help.
    • Keep moving. Gentle, daily exercise can help reduce pain over the long run. Try low- or no-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and stationary biking. Do stretches to stay flexible.
    • Try heat, cold packs, and massage.
    • Get enough sleep. Pain can make you tired and drain your energy. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble sleeping because of pain.
    • Think positive. Your thoughts can affect your pain level. Do things that you enjoy to distract yourself when you have pain instead of focusing on the pain. See a movie, read a book, listen to music, or spend time with a friend.
  • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine, take it as prescribed.
  • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new kind of pain.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a fever or rash, along with the pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You think you might be using too much pain medicine, and you need help to use less or stop.
  • Your pain gets worse.
  • You would like a referral to a doctor or clinic that specializes in pain management.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: February 19, 2016