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Can someone become addicted to opiates while in hospice?

If mom has been given less than six months by her doctor should I be worried about the possibility of her getting addicted to the prescription painkillers she was prescribed?
Status: Open    May 30, 2014 - 12:44 AM

End of Life

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Expert Answers

Mar 20, 2015 - 12:01 PM

Hospice uses the principles of palliative care to provide patient comfort. The doctor will order pain medications beginning with the mildest regimen that provides comfort and save the stronger meds for later.

These medications may include a combination of medications to enhance the pain relief effectiveness and minimize side effects.

You can help your mom keep records for the doctor about the level of pain she has before taking medications and the amount of relief after administration.

The doctor uses this information to evaluate the effectiveness of the pain relief regimen and if an adjustment in meds needs to be made.

Hospice will frequently teach the patient to take their own pain medications. They tend to be more relaxed and the meds more effective, if they have control over their own medications.

It is encouraged not to let the pain get too intense before taking the medications. Pain relief can also be enhanced with the use of relaxation and/or distraction therapies.


APFM Staff Answers

Mar 20, 2015 - 08:54 AM

Often when people enter hospice due to an end of life diagnosis they are prescribed pain medications to give them some relief as their condition worsens. If someone were not living with a terminal diagnosis then it would be worrisome if they took painkillers on a regular basis. It can affect their day to day activities and it is not good to be dependent on them for long periods of time.

When someone is involved with hospice and they do not have years to live then “becoming addicted” to painkillers is a non-problem. The purpose of hospice is to assist with the end of life process and if giving someone relief from crippling pain for a few months so that they can die with dignity does not cause an addiction. It is not something that will impact their day to day life in a negative way.

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