Managing chronic pain with opioids is complicated and challenging. Doctors need to know if patients can follow the treatment plan, if they get desired responses from the meds, and if there are signs of developing addiction. Physicians use “medication contracts” to monitor patients adherence, or to help check that patients are compliant with the medications ordered. Such agreements are most commonly used when narcotic pain relievers are prescribed. Narcotics can sometimes become addictive if not taken as prescribed by a doctor.
The use of a pain management agreement allows for the documentation of understanding between a doctor and patient. Such documentation, when used as a means of facilitating care, can improve communication between doctors and patients.
You’re a chronic pain patient who takes several prescription narcotics to control your symptoms. Then one weekend, excruciating pain lands you in the emergency room. There, a doctor grills you about your medications, in part to make sure that you’re a legitimate pain patient, not someone seeking drugs. What can you do to help the ER doctor to believe you?
It’s not always easy to tell chronic pain patients from drug-seeking patients, says Howard Blumstein, MD, FAAEM, president of the American Academy...
If your doctor asks you to sign a pain treatment agreement, discuss any concerns you may have with the doctor before signing the agreement. Questions you may want to ask include:
What medications does the agreement include?
How does the agreement affect emergency care?
What if I fail to follow the agreement?
A pain management agreement may include statements such as those listed in the sample document below.
An Example of a Pain Treatment Agreement
I understand that I have a right to comprehensive pain management. I wish to enter a treatment agreement to prevent possible chemical dependency. I understand that failure to follow any of these agreed statements might result in Dr. __________________________ not providing ongoing care for me.
I, _________________________________________________, agree to undergo pain management by Dr. _____________________________. My diagnosis is __________________________________________________________________. I agree to the following statements:
I will not accept any narcotic prescriptions from another doctor. I will be responsible for making sure that I do not run out of my medications on weekends and holidays, because abrupt discontinuation of these medications can cause severe withdrawal syndrome. I understand that I must keep my medications in a safe place. I understand that Dr. _______________________________ will not supply additional refills for the prescriptions of medications that I may lose. If my medications are stolen, Dr. _______________________________ will refill the prescription one time only if a copy of the police report of the theft is submitted to the physician's office. I will not give my prescriptions to anyone else. I will only use one pharmacy. I will keep my scheduled appointments with Dr. ________________________ unless I give notice of cancellation 24 hours in advance. I agree to refrain from all mind/mood altering/illicit/addicting drugs including alcohol unless authorized by Dr. ______________________.