Surgery can be stressful especially with the added stress of medication. Most doctors recommend the use of opioids for pain management with total joint replacement surgeries but it’s important to know as much as possible about these very powerful medications.
Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. They are often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and can relieve pain. They are known to cause a ‘euphoric’ feeling and are typically very strong. Though the prescription drugs given to you by a doctor for surgery are legal and helpful they can also become addictive. It’s important to have conversations with your doctor and whoever is helping you post-surgery about using these medications safely.
Firstly, if you have had an opioid addiction in the past your doctor should be informed. Don’t be afraid of judgment or being “difficult” your doctor is there to treat you in the best way possible. They may recommend alternative pain relief that will be much safer and less harmful to your health in the long run. Similarly, if you have had bad reactions to opioid drugs in the past be prepared to tell your doctor which brand of medication, what the dosage was (if you remember) and the exact reaction you had. Not all medications are the same and they may give you an alternative that works better for you. Sometimes doctors may prescribe opioids before your surgery (depending on your age). If you find yourself having a bad reaction at that point tell them immediately so that you can have a better medication post surgery.
Once you are home post-op, having a trusted friend to help you comes in very handy for making sure you get your medication on time, but it’s important to give them as much information as possible. Doctors will frequently print out instructions for you or a helper, make sure they have access to it pre-op or, if possible, that they go with you on a visit to your doctor. One of the most important things to remember about using prescription opioids is that you should only take them as prescribed and not double up if you miss a dose. You or your helper can set an alarm to alert you when the next dose is coming so it doesn’t wear off and leave you in pain unnecessarily. Also, make sure the instructions on the bottle are being observed.
Finally, when you are through your recovery and your doctor has given you the clear to stop taking the medications, dispose of any leftover pills safely. Making sure that you or anyone else does not have access to these powerful medications will remove any temptation to try and take them. Some pharmacies have drug take-back policies, but the FDA also says that flushing dangerous drugs down the toilet is a good way to make sure they are disposed of permanently.
If you take precautions and listen to your doctor’s advice taking medications post surgery will be one less thing to worry about so you can concentrate on resting and recovering safely.