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Adventures in Retirement- Controlling pain medications: Don’t let your body fool you

Written by Bill Leavitt. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on June 07, 2017 with No Comments

Many senior citizens have had surgeries and have experienced the effects of strong pain medications.  Recent media coverage has indicated that taking strong pain medications can result in “opioid addiction,” which is a serious problem.  Many patients have become addicted to these meds and some have died as a result.

I recently had a very enlightening experience with strong pain meds.  I was in the hospital, recovering from a serious surgery.  Upon my release I was given a prescription for treatment of pain. While taking the medication, I felt a moderate amount of pain and worried about how severe it could become if I stopped taking the medication.  The pain medication seemed to keep the pain at a manageable level, but after a week’s time the level of pain did not lessen.   As a result, I refilled the prescription.

Shortly after that, I saw my doctor.  He suggested that I shouldn’t have refilled it.  In fact, he said that if I wanted to refill it again, I would be required to go to a pain-management clinic.  He felt that by this time I should not need the med.

So, in spite of still feeling a moderate amount of pain, I stopped taking the medication.  I expected that the pain would become severe, but it didn’t.  In fact, soon after stopping the med, the pain became less and less until it became minimal.

This surprised me until I learned that often strong pain medication makes your body crave the med.  It creates the false feeling of pain when there isn’t any.  What a shock for me!  For a week or more I was taking medication that I didn’t need, because my body was convincing me that I needed it.

Now I fully understand about how the addiction starts.  So, besides dealing with surgery and the pain associated with it, now we have to worry about addiction.

In surgeries since then, I have tried to avoid pain medication completely.  Even in the hospital I have refused further medication after the surgery.  In most cases, I have not needed it.  The nurses suggested that, instead of filling a prescription for a pain med, I could get something like Super-Strength Tylenol, which isn’t addicting and doesn’t require a prescription.  I could take that for moderate pain that kept me from sleeping.

My advice to patients is to avoid any strong pain medication unless the pain is so severe that it is intolerable or keeps you from sleeping.  Not everyone has the same tolerance to pain, but if you can handle a little pain, you will be better off.  The consequences of taking unneeded pain meds are much more serious than dealing with a small amount of pain after surgery.

You may want to fill the pain medication prescription in case the pain becomes severe, but in most cases, like me, you will find that you don’t need it.  Another plus to avoiding strong pain med is that you won’t be loopy and out of control after your surgery.

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About Bill Leavitt

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Bill Leavitt is a technical writer from Valparaiso. After retiring from a large corporation in Chicago, he did technical writing consulting for many companies. He currently teaches part-time at Purdue University Calumet. You can order Leavitt’s book, “Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure,” by sending $16.65 (includes shipping and sales tax) made payable to Write On Technical Writing, Inc., P.O. Box 132,Valparaiso, IN 46384-0132. Or, visit RetirementLifesGreatestAdventure.com for more information.

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