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Using Opioids Safely After Medical Procedures

by Nick

If you’ve suffered a severe injury or had major surgical intervention, chances are you were prescribed opioids for pain management. 

Opioid medications can be safe and effective when taken under your health care provider’s strict directives and supervision. However, because the drugs can lead to deadly overdose and addiction if not handled with care, using opioids safely requires caution. 

Types of Pain Medication: Drugs After Surgery

Pain-reducing medications, or analgesics, are generally used to manage post-surgical pain.

Pain medications commonly used after medical procedures include:

  • Opioids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs
  • Local anesthetics
  • Other psychoactive drugs
  • Other non-opioid pain relievers

Safe Pain Control After Surgery 

After a medical procedure, your surgical team will work with you to use alternatives to opioids whenever possible. 

After surgery, safe pain treatment involves medication and other practices to manage discomfort with minimal side effects. All members of your surgical team — including pharmacists and nurses — will educate you on:

  • Knowing the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose
  • Using the lowest prescription of opioids for the shortest possible period
  • Safely disposing of any unused opioids

How Can I Use Opioids Safely After Surgery?

If you need drugs after surgery, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor about safe opioid use. 

Tips for using opioids safely after medical procedures include:

  • Discuss medicines, supplements and alcohol intake with your doctor.
  • Stick to the lowest possible prescription.
  • Don’t take opioids for conditions that involve long-term pain.
  • Do not crush pills.
  • Never mix alcohol with opioids or NSAIDs. 
  • Never take more opioids than prescribed.
  • Never take an opioid with sedatives, muscle relaxers, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications or another opioid. 

What Are the Side Effects of Opioid Abuse After Surgery?

Anyone who takes prescription opioids for pain management after surgery can become addicted. Taking opioids for reasons other than pain management — or other than prescribed — can lead to prescription drug abuse. 

The most severe form of opioid abuse is addiction, which can occur when a patient in recovery takes prescription drugs for the sole purpose of getting high. Addiction to opioids means seeking them out despite their adverse effects. Opioid addiction can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. These can encompass the following:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety

Learn More About Safe Opioid Use From Your Local Health Care Resource Centers 

If you’re having surgery, it’s natural to think about the risks associated with powerful pain medications like opioids. Minimizing side effects and controlling pain are essential for rehabilitation, recovery and post-surgical comfort. If you are afraid of overdosing on drugs after surgery, talk to your doctor. He or she will help you understand how to safely use opioids to manage severe pain after a medical procedure. 

At Health Care Resource Centers, we want to help you live a fulfilling life free from addiction. For over 25 years, our team of knowledgeable doctors and nurse practitioners has used medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to help those in recovery for opioid use disorder.

Find a New England HCRC clinic near you or contact Health Care Resource Centers online to learn more about using opioids safely after medical procedures. 

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