When should I be concerned that my opioid pain medications have failed me or my loved ones?
Talking about three questions can help you decide
1 - Are serious opioid-related side effects occurring?
Serious side effects re ones that are life threatening--usually requiring admission to the hospitalto manage, like not breathing well or becomng very confused. Serious side effects are ones that are difficult to manage, like severe constipation. Another side effect that can be difficult to manage is called "opioid-induced hyperalgesia." This is a medical term for when opioids make someone's pain worse by increasing pain sensitivity. If you feel that you are more sensative to pain (when you go to the dentist or stub your toe, for example) than in the past, then talk with your physician about this or other side effects you may be having.
2 - Are opioids being used appropriately, as prescribed by your doctor?
This can be a harder question to answer, but if you are doing unsafe things like drinking alcohol or taking street drugs while using opioids or doing illegal things like selling your opioids to others, then opioids have failed you. If you are conerned that opioids
have more control over you than you have over them, then you should talk with your doctor about your worries.
3 - Are opioids doing what they are supposed to?
Opiod treatment should both reduce pain to acceptable levels and improve function and quality of life. If this is not happening despite taking your pain meds as prescribed, then opioids have failed you. It is now understood that increasing opioids doses cab have more risk than benefit. Talk to your doctor about how effective your opioids are. If you decide that the benefits of opioids are less than their risk, then aother strategy to manage your pain can be tried.
Talking these questions over with your family and friends can help you answer them better. Your doctor would welcome your thoughts and understands that considering whether or not opioids have failed can be very scary. The more honest and transparent you are about your answers, the more able your doctor can help you find a better treatment for your pain if opioids have failed.