As an epidemic of opioid addiction sweeps across our nation, I’d like to share my "Top 10 Tips" for preventing chemical dependency on opioids:
1) Reduce the number of prescription pain pills coming into your home. After a surgery or an injury, ask your doctor to suggest a non-narcotic pain reliever instead of an opioid.
2) Understand your personal risk for chemical dependency. Risk factors include a family history of drug or alcohol issues, personal experience of childhood trauma (such as the death of a parent, or sexual abuse), and mental health issues including depression, anxiety disorder or bi-polar disorder.
3) If your doctor gave you a lengthy prescription, consider that you may have been prescribed more pain pills that you will need, and call your doctor to discuss the risks versus benefits of long-term prescription pain medication.
4) Minimize the duration of your pain pill use. Physical dependence on opioids can start after just three days of use, as your body loses its natural ability to manage pain. Then, you’ll start to need more and more medication to get the same degree of relief. Dependence can progress into addiction, where you'd need opioids - at any price - just to make it through the day without debilitating pain.
5) Consider alternative ways to manage your pain such as chiropractic treatment, massage, yoga or mindfulness.
6) Lock up and hide your medications. Keep them out of sight and reach of curious children – from toddlers to teens. And if your teen is taking a prescription opioid, make sure that YOU store, handle and dispense all medications.
7) Talk with your teens OFTEN about the dangers of prescription medication. Parents and teens alike often think pills are safe because they are “from a doctor.” LEGAL drugs are not necessarily safer than ILLEGAL drugs.
8) Talk with your teens repeatedly about the risks of buying medications over the internet, where many deadly man-made drugs are sold. Just because drugs are available online does NOT mean they are safe.
9) Don’t flush your extra pills! Instead, dispose of excess medications safely at April and October DEA drug take-back days or by disposing of loose pills in stinky garbage like used kitty litter.
10) If you sense a problem developing, seek professional assistance immediately. And learn all you can about addiction, treatment and recovery by downloading my FREE eBook, “Recovery 101.”
Author Ricki Townsend is a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist. Find her at A Path to Recovery
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