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What to know about opioids

Many Minnesotans who have an opioid addiction were once just a patient dealing with pain.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Governor Dayton just announced a very detailed plan to fight the growing opioid epidemic in Minnesota. How did it get to this point?

The truth is, many Minnesotans who have an opioid addiction were once just a patient dealing with pain. In fact, each one of us is just a broken arm, a bad back or a slip on the ice away from being handed a prescription that, if abused, could become incredibly dangerous and possibly life-threatening.

Dr. Peter Currie from The Urgency Room stopped by the KARE 11 News at 4 to talk about it.

Take a look at these statistics:

• Almost 30% of all patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain miss-use them

• Approximately 10% will develop an opioid use disorder

• Approximately 5% of those who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin

• About 80% of people who use heroin first began with prescription opioids

So, what should the average person know about opioids? We talk so much about the abuse, the addicts, and the problem. But, what about going back to the very beginning and looking at the patient in pain.

What is an Opioid?

Opioids are a type of medicine often used to help relieve pain. They work by lowering the number of pain signals your body sends to your brain. They also change how your brain responds to pain.

Opioids usually are safe when you use them correctly. But, people who do not follow their doctor’s instructions and those who misuse opioids can become addicted. The Urgency Room says they will prescribe an opioid only when necessary and only prescribe about 3 days’ worth of the medication while also encouraging the patient to take less than prescribed.

What Should I Know If I’m Prescribed an Opioid?

First, know that you do not have to fill or take an opioid prescription if your pain is tolerable with Tylenol or Motrin, for example. If you do choose to use an opioid to treat your pain, use only as prescribed and less if possible. You should be able to stop using the medication after a few days. If not, your doctor may need to see you to make sure there isn’t an issue with your recovery causing new symptoms or unexpected pain.

Pain Is Good!

As we discuss, when it comes to the opioid epidemic in Minnesota, it’s important to talk about pain. The Urgency Room says they certainly don’t want patients to suffer after an injury. As well, chronic pain is a completely different discussion. Today we are focusing on pain from acute injuries. Opioids are necessary for unbearable pain that makes it impossible for a patient to sleep, for example. But, if you are injured, do not expect to have zero pain. In fact, pain is a good thing.

Think of it this way, when you break your leg, you feel pain. Nerve endings are triggered that send warning signals to the brain. From there your body develops ways to handle the pain and also makes decisions based on how your body is feeling. For example, you will lay on the couch and rest, instead of pushing yourself to do your laundry or stay up late and work. When you continue to take an opioid to eliminate pain, you’re not allowing your body to develop its own coping skills. You are also feeling good and more apt to push your body in ways that compromise the healing process.

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