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What are some concerns doctors have when prescribing opioids?

Some concerns that doctors have when prescribing opioids include the following: 

  • It's critical that when doctors prescribe opioid medications they understand that it usually should be temporary and there should be an end game. For example, people who undergo open heart surgery are often given opioids in the hospital to help with pain. Often they leave with pain and continue on the opioid. 
  • It’s very important to have a conversation with the patient about the addictive potential of the medication and that there must be an end game.
  • The longer people are on an opioid, the higher doses they're going to need. It's called tolerance—or tachyphylaxis. The person needs higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect over time because pain receptors that give the sense of euphoria have been saturated. But if used correctly and used for pain, people can wean off of opioids if they understand how and when they're supposed to take them. 
  • If doctors keep prescribing opioids and the person has more and more pain, doctors need to look into other resources. There are many pain management specialists that doctors can refer people to.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.