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    Pain Medication: Are You Addicted?

    What to know about becoming addicted to pain medications.

    3. Use the Medication for Its Proper Purpose

    "People need to be vigilant that the medication doesn't become a coping mechanism for other issues," says Karen Miotto, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA.

    If your doctor writes you a prescription that makes your pain more tolerable, and you're using it as directed, that's OK. But if you're using it for some other reason that your doctor doesn't know about, that's a red flag. For example, if you hate your job and you're taking the drug because you find it takes the edge off, that's a sign that you could develop a problem, Miotto says.

    4. Watch for Early Signs of Trouble

    Here are four warning signs that you may be misusing your prescription painkiller:

    • You're not taking the drug as prescribed.
    • You're taking the medicine for reasons other than why the doctor prescribed it.
    • Your use of the drug has made you miss work or school, neglect your children, or suffer other harmful consequences.
    • You haven't been honest (with your doctor, loved ones, or yourself) about your use of the drug.

    Your doctor should work with you to limit addiction risk. She may ask you about how you're doing, give you a urine test to check for medication, and ask you to bring in all your medications so she can check how many are left and where the prescriptions came from.

    5. Ask for Help

    If you feel like you're losing control over your pain medicine use, or if you have questions about whether you're becoming addicted to it, you may want to consult a doctor who specializes in pain medicine. He or she should listen to your concerns without judgment and take a reasoned approach.

    For instance, if she thinks you need to get off a certain drug, she might look into switching you to another drug with less potential for misuse. If your doctor isn't comfortable handling your situation, consider getting a second opinion from a psychiatrist or addiction specialist, Miotto says.

    6. Take Precautions

    Pain-relieving drugs can lead to problems other than addiction, Miotto says. Keep opiates locked away so kids, teens, and others in your home can't take them.

    And be extra-cautious using other prescription and over-the-counter drugs along with opiates. Certain combinations could cause you to become unconscious, stop breathing, and even die.

    When Candy Pitcher, now 56, makes her monthly visits to the pain clinic, the staff gives her random drug tests and counts her morphine pills. She doesn't mind the attention. "Because of the benefits the opioid has given me, I'm willing to do it," she says.

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    Reviewed on June 19, 2012

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