Know your risk factors
“If, after discussing your medical history, your doctor feels your risk is elevated,” says Portenoy, “expect that she will prescribe only a few pills at a time, will require frequent office visits, and may want to work in consultation with a pain specialist or addiction counselor.”
Tune in to your body
For the average person, a painkiller relieves suffering and may cause some side effects, such as drowsiness, constipation, and fuzzy thinking. If it gives you a lift or a sense of control, tell your doctor. Feeling a buzz or a hit of euphoria doesn’t mean you’re definitely on the path to addiction, but it’s a red flag.
Be watchful, too, if you’re under a lot of stress. “Narcotics should only be used to ease physical symptoms,” says Lerner. If you find you’re using a drug to numb negative emotions or “make it all go away,” your treatment may need to be changed.