Talk with your doctor, if you’re worried about taking a narcotic painkiller

March 15, 2017

Opioid AddictionDespite news reports portraying the tragic consequences of a national opioid epidemic, a new NPR-Truven Health Analytics poll shows the number of people taking narcotic painkillers is rising.

More than half of those surveyed, or 57 percent, said they had been prescribed a narcotic painkiller such as Percocet, Vicodin or morphine at some point. This is up 3 percent since a similar 2014 survey and up 7 percent since 2011.

“The drugs are like a two-edged sword. They’re great for people who really need them for heavy duty pain, but they come with addiction risk and side effects,” Ron Ozminkowski, a vice president of IBM Watson Health who consulted on the poll, said in an interview with NPR.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports as many as 1 in 4 people who use opioids become addicted. However, the NPR survey showed only a third of patients refuse or question their doctors when prescribed a narcotic painkiller.

What should you do if your doctor prescribes opioids?

Ask why a narcotic is necessary and discuss alternatives, such as Tylenol, ibuprofen or physical therapy, advises Dr. Lena Wen, Health Commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

“Patients should more readily voice their concerns about getting a prescription for narcotics to make sure if it really is the best option,” Wen told NPR.

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