What are a patient’s rights and responsibilities when they are prescribed opioids? Learn how to avoid addiction and take personal responsibility.

Chronic addiction to drugs or alcohol is an issue for many people. Addiction to prescription drugs may lead to the use of other drugs once a prescription has run out. When approaching the opioid crisis from the standpoint of someone who struggles with addiction, many questions surface, including:

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 11.1 million people abused opioids (age 12 and older) within the year surveyed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that, in 2016, substance abuse costs $740 billion in the form of crime, health care and lost productivity.

Experts explain that there are a variety of contributing factors to addiction, including:

  • Mental health issues
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Social or familial factors

Excessive drug or alcohol use typically begins as experimentationContinued use can result in substance use disorder. Prolonged substance abuse can cause medical, financial and social problems. However, when prescription medication is the abused drug, there are other factors to consider.

Prescription drug abuse often begins with a legitimate prescription after surgery or injury. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids and stimulants. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health recorded 2 million new instances in which people abused prescription pain medications in 2017. People also frequently abuse tranquilizers and sedatives. Opioids are particularly susceptible to abuse because they activate the reward system in the brain, providing pain relief and feelings of euphoria. When people begin to rely on the drug for the pleasurable feelings it elicits, it may create a cycle of addiction.

Several new laws are being enacted in various states that limit how long opioids can be prescribed for, from seven days to only three days. Electronic registries for opioid prescriptions and other systems are being tested to limit patient access and regulate prescriber practices. Despite these measures, many people today live with addictions that started with legal prescriptions. Whether or not a prescription continues, addiction may remain. 

A Patient’s Response to Overprescribing

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17.4% of people in the United States received an opioid prescription in 2017. While prescription rates have decreased significantly over the past few years, the impacts of past prescribing practices still impact people today. There are many ways in which experts now believe that addiction is significantly related to genetic predisposition or neurological factors. In other words, people who struggle with substance abuse are compelled by forces outside of their control. This raises the question of addiction and personal responsibility.

Much blame has been rightfully assigned to the role of overprescribing in the opioid epidemic. Because opioids are highly addictive, the risk of prescribing them to patients who have had surgery or are in chronic pain may not have been weighed heavily enough by doctors. 

There are some ways that patients may respond to this process that can circumvent drug use. Patients have the right to:

  • Ask for opioid alternatives for pain treatment
  • Request drug specific information 
  • Ask for the lowest possible dose
  • Schedule regular check-ups while on opioids

Symptoms of Addiction

When taking opioids for medical reasons, it is important to self-monitor any visible symptoms that you are becoming addicted. These symptoms may include:

  • Constipation or digestion issues
  • Changed sleep patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability when the medicine wears off
  • Physical agitation
  • Decreased motivation
  • Anxiety

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, many treatment and rehabilitation options are available, including The Recovery Village. Reach out to a representative today for more information about treatment.

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By – Joy Youell
Joy Youell is a writer and content developer with a background in educational research. Using sound pedagogical approaches and expert-backed methods, Joy has designed and delivered adult learning content, professional development, and company training materials for organizations. Read more
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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more

Bose, Jonaki, et al. “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health“>Key Subs[…]se and Health.” September 2018. Accessed August 8, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2018 Annual Surveillance Report of Drug-Related Risks and Outcomes“>2018 Ann[…] and Outcomes.” 2018. Accessed August 8, 2019.

Harvard Health Publishing. “What new opioid laws mean for pain relief“>What new[…]r pain relief.” October 2018. Accessed August 7, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Costs of Substance Abuse“>Costs of[…]bstance Abuse.” April 2017. Accessed August 8, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is the scope of prescription drug misuse?“>What is […] drug misuse?” December 2018. Accessed August 8, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.