Staying Safe When Managing Pain

If you’ve had an injury, surgery or major dental work, you are likely to have pain. Pain is a normal part of life and healing. Talk with your doctor about how you can get the most effective pain relief with the least risk.

Non-Opioid Pain Treatments Have Fewer Risks

For pain that will likely be gone in a week or two, it is generally best to start with non-opioid pain treatments. Opioids may help control pain, but they are usually not necessary. Consider these other options, which may work just as well but have far fewer risks:

    • Over-the-counter pain relievers
    • Physical therapy
    • Exercise
    • Professional help coping with the emotional effects of pain

Opioids are Strong Prescription Medications

Opioids can be the right choice for treating severe pain, such as from cancer or immediately after major surgery. However, these medications – which include Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin – are very powerful and can be deadly. Even if you take them as directed, ALL opioids have serious side effects such as addiction and overdose.

Opioids are Chemical Cousins of Heroin and are Highly Addictive

You can build up a tolerance to opioids over time, so you need to take more and more to get the same relief. The higher the dose, the more dangerous opioids are. You can even become addicted after a short time.

If you are prescribed an opioid for short-term pain:

    • The prescription should only be for a three- to seven-day supply (often this is as few as 10 pills).
    • Take the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time.
    • Always talk with your doctor about managing your pain better without taking prescription opioids.

For a list of commonly prescribed opioids and more information about the medications’ impact in our communities, view this fact sheet. You can also visit the Community Checkup website to see opioid prescribing rates in Washington state.