For people who are currently in treatment for, or have completed treatment for opioid dependency or addiction, it’s of utmost importance to stay sober from opioids to ensure that you don’t relapse. However, life and accidents happen, often resulting in the need for some kind of medical surgery. Getting surgery as someone recovering from opioid use disorder can cause a high amount of anxiety. Often post-surgery, doctors prescribe opioids to help with the pain. It seems like the only option is to take the opioids, or suffer through the pain without them. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives to prescription painkillers; let’s explore a few of them.

Know What To Tell Your Healthcare Provider

First and foremost, you’re going to need to let your healthcare provider know that you have had an opioid dependency or addiction in the past and that they cannot give you opioids following your surgery. Some doctors may still feel it necessary, depending on the kind of surgery, to prescribe opioids. In this case, they will provide, or you can seek out an addiction specialist to help you through the process. You will meet with the specialist before surgery and create a plan for the minimal and necessary use of the pain relief medication. It’s important to stay calm and not allow the drug to impede your healing process. Think of it as a necessary tool, like the surgery itself, for your healing. Trusting your addiction specialist is important, as they will guide you through the process of safely and effectively taking the pain medication following surgery.

Find Other Forms Of Pain Relief

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medications

Medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be highly effective for managing pain post-surgery. Often these are overlooked as they aren’t as “strong” as prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. For smaller surgeries, minor procedures, and procedures that are not invasive, these medications are a great option for treating postoperative pain. Double-check with your surgeon and addiction specialist to ensure that you’re using the correct dosage of these medications. If you happen to overdose seek medical help immediately. 


New research has shown that acupuncture treatments are showing promising results for pain management. Acupuncture is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine, in which small needles are inserted into specific pressure points to alleviate pain and soreness. It’s often accompanied by calm meditative music and can be an incredibly soothing practice. Talk to your surgeon about finding an acupuncturist who has the right techniques available for your pain. This form of treatment is especially good for long-term chronic pain, not just short-term pain management. 

Virtual Reality

This high-tech option is the most fun form of alternative pain management. Doctors at Hoag Hospital at Newport Beach found that the use of VR headsets and certain games was relatively effective at reducing the symptoms of acute and chronic pain. These 15 to 30-minute sessions help distract the patient from the feeling of pain, which in turn reduces the actual amount of pain they are feeling. The specific virtual reality game is important to the treatment. The team at Hoag Hospital uses a game that focuses on slowing breathing and helping the patient relax. It might just be worth it to enter virtual reality and play the pain away. 

Other Additional Options To Help

There are several other options out there with varying rates of effectiveness. Treatments such as nerve blocks, radio and electronic signals, and massages have been shown to reduce chronic and acute pain. There is also a burgeoning amount of research in the field of CBD oils and medical marijuana. Ultimately, you have to discuss the issue in-depth with your surgeon, make sure they are educated on the alternatives to opioids and they know your history with opioids. The best option for pain-free recovery is out there, you just have to find the right one. 


If you still need more assistance finding alternatives to prescription painkillers, contact us and we’ll do all that we can to help. You can call us or fill out our simple contact form. Let us know what you need help with and find the right way to overcome your addiction once and for all.