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Learning About Pain Control When You Have a History of Opioid Use Disorder

How is pain managed when you have a history of opioid use disorder?

It can be really hard to be in severe pain and at the same time be afraid to take medicine for it because you could have a relapse.

It's important to see a doctor when you're in severe pain. If you try to manage the pain yourself, you could fall back into your old habits with opioids.

An important part of preventing a relapse is to make sure the doctor knows about your history of opioid use disorder. Make sure the doctor knows, even when your visit is for some other reason than pain.

You may feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it. But don't let these feelings stand in your way. Your doctor is there to help you. To get you the right treatment, your doctor needs to know about your history.

It may be easier to bring it up if you write down a sentence or two about it ahead of time. For example, you could write what you were taking and for how long. You could say how long you have been in recovery. And you could say how important it is to you to avoid using opioids.

You may also take someone with you who could help you explain your history. This could be a friend, a family member, or your Narcotics Anonymous sponsor.

Can severe pain be treated without opioids?

Your doctor can tell you about many other ways to manage pain.

One option is non-opioid medicines, such as:

  • Acetaminophen.
  • NSAIDs.
  • Certain antidepressants.
  • Certain anti-seizure medicines.

Pain treatment may include other things besides medicine. You may find relief from treatments such as ice or heat, meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and making sure you get enough sleep.

Work with your doctor to explore different options for pain relief.

It's also possible that you could take an opioid for pain for a short time. In that case, it will be very important to work closely with your doctor.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

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