Approved by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Opioids (also known as narcotics) are very effective pain relievers, but they need to be used with caution because they can be addictive. Taking these medications at too high a dose or for too long increases your risk for opioid dependence or addiction.
You can become physically dependent on opioids in as few as 5 days*.
To minimize your risk of addiction or other adverse effects, follow these precautions if your doctor prescribes you an opioid pain medication:
- Let your doctor know about any other drugs you're taking.
- Ask about the risks and benefits of taking opioid pain medication.
- Discuss alternative pain relievers and therapies with your doctor.
- Ask your doctor to prescribe only as many pills as you're likely to need.
- Don't take a higher dose than prescribed.
- Don't take pills more often than prescribed.
- Don't take the medication with alcohol or other drugs.
- Don't take someone else's medication.
- Don't take extra acetaminophen. Many opioids contain acetaminophen (Tylenol), so there's a risk of liver damage if you take more.
- Switch to non-opioid or over-the-counter painkillers as soon as possible.
- Dispose of leftover pills properly
If you have any risk factors for addiction, you and your doctor will want to take some extra precautions:
- Ask your doctor to prescribe you opioid pills for only two or three days at a time.
- Talk to your doctor about ways to manage your pain without opioids.
If you find yourself feeling withdrawal symptoms after you stop taking the medication, you maybe have become physically dependent on them. If this has happened, please call us to learn how a medical detox treatment can make quitting easy, safe, and comfortable.
ACOG. 2017a. Medications for pain relief during labor and delivery. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Medications-for-Pain-Relief-During-Labor-and-Delivery [Accessed April 2018]
ACOG. 2017b. Opioid use and opioid use disorder in pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Opioid-Use-and-Opioid-Use-Disorder-in-Pregnancy [Accessed April 2018]