“I can’t tell my doctor about my substance use history because I am afraid he/she won’t understand or will think I am seeking drugs rather than seeking pain relief.”
This, one of several comments of concern featured on the cover of a brochure from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), illustrates the agonizing conflicts often accompanying the untreated pain experienced by many individuals in recovery. Amid an environment in which there is a great deal of counsel, preaching and even misinformation about pain management in this population, New York’s state substance abuse agency decided to issue its own statement to support more effective patient-doctor communication.
“Talking to Your Doctor About Pain,” released during Recovery Month last September, is the second brochure in OASAS’s Health Talk series, designed to help individuals in recovery to become partners in their healthcare. It offers individuals guidance for the time before, during and after a visit to the doctor to discuss pain symptoms, and it uses empowering language for the recovering person who is processing conflicting thoughts.
“You have the right to expect that your doctor will be sensitive, nonjudgmental, supportive and knowledgeable about the implications of addiction as it relates to your pain management plan,” the brochure states.
Among its suggestions, the brochure states that both before and after a doctor’s visit, a family member, friend or recovery coach can serve as an important resource for helping to monitor an individual’s pain management. For the doctor’s visit, the brochure suggests that a patient inform the doctor of any concerns about taking medications that might exacerbate relapse risk, and ask about any appropriate non-opioid and/or complementary therapies to treat pain.
“It is our hope that Health Talk can provide guidance and support to help people to adopt a wellness-oriented lifestyle that promotes the most effective evidence-based practice,” says OASAS Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo. “That’s particularly important when it comes to pain management and preventing relapse.”