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The Dangers of Opioids

Your provider may choose to reduce or eliminate your opioid pain medications to improve your pain management. The reasons for this are many:
  1. There is no consistent, high-quality, scientific evidence that supports the use of these medications for chronic noncancer pain.
  2. Daily use of these medications will likely result in physical dependency. Your body may become so dependent on the opioid chemical that it will be difficult to determine if it is relieving pain or just maintaining the dependency.
  3. Daily use of these medications can result in hyperalgesia. This means that your nervous system becomes more sensitive to pain because of the pain medications.
  4. Regular use of these medications can lead to increased growth rates for tumors.
  5. Higher doses of opioid pain medications have been proven to result in greater risk of overdose and death.
  6. Regular use of these medications can cause harmful changes in hormone levels.
  7. There is a significant risk of addiction and abuse of opioid medications.
  8. These medications are known to cause many side effects, including nausea, vomiting, constipation, memory problems, dizziness, decreased sleep quality and breathing problems.
  9. Selling these medications or having them stolen is a major public health issue in Montana and nationwide. It is your health care provider’s responsibility to limit the use of these medications as much as possible.
  10. In most cases, alternatives are available that make opioids the last resort for managing chronic pain. Fortunately, The Montana Center for Wellness and Pain Management offers some of the most comprehensive pain and wellness care in the United States.

Medication Holiday

A medication holiday, or opioid holiday, is a limited period of time designated to remove a patient from all opioid medications to reset the body’s pain receptors and establish the effectiveness of those medications. The goal is to provide more effective pain relief with or without opioid medications.

A medication wean is a scheduled decrease of opioid medication, working toward an opioid holiday, directed and supported by prescribing provider.
  • Slow wean – The schedule for a medication wean can be paced slowly. This may decrease the intensity of symptoms of the narcotic leaving the body.
  • Fast wean – A faster-paced wean may result in greater intensity of symptoms, but over a shorter period of time.
Possible side effects and symptoms of a medication holiday include: agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, increased crying, insomnia, runny nose, sweating, yawning, abdominal cramps or diarrhea. Withdrawal medication can be prescribed to decrease some of the withdrawal symptoms.

After the patient has completed the medication holiday, their pain is assessed and treatment can be modified as needed. If narcotics are part of the treatment, the medication will be started at a lower dose due to lack of tolerance.

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Know Your Dose