If you do need narcotic pain relievers, and many do, you probably want to get them from a pain management specialist. Your doctor might ask you to sign a pain management contract where you agree to only get pain medication from that specific doctor and to undergo random urine drug screens. These are common and it does not mean that your doctor does not trust you. It means that there are lots of people out there who want to abuse narcotic medications and the doctor has a procedure in place to protect the doctor, but also the patient so the doctor can spot signs of abuse quickly.
Not everyone who takes a percocet becomes an addict in the same way that not every one who drinks a beer is an alcoholic. Lots of people take them when they have surgery or when they pull a muscle or even for chronic pain and never have an issue. But because opiates can be extremely addictive doctors need to monitor patients and patients need to monitor themselves.
Patients do become physically dependent on opiates quickly as well so even though you might not be emotionally dependent, you will have physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the opiates. This doesn't mean you need to enter rehab, but it's something to be aware of and talk to your doctor about. Basically, if you're going to take opiates, make sure you need them. Don't get them from multiple doctors if you can possibly help it and don't take more than you need. Be very clear with your doctors about what helps your pain and what doesn't. Be open to trying new therapies to help with your pain. Do not just go into your doctor's office and demand opiates. Your doctor won't appreciate it, it's not great for your case, and it's really not great for your recovery either.
The other side of disability and pain medication is whether you can work on the pain medication. I've had a number of people tell me that they cannot work because they are on the pain medication and cannot pass a drug test. This is not precisely true. A drug test tests for drugs that are illegal or drugs that you are not prescribed. If you are legally prescribed medications, you do not fail a drug test. Whether or not you can perform a job while on opiates is a separate matter. You probably should not drive trucks or operate heavy equipment while taking narcotic pain medication. Some people are able to function fairly well on pain medication, particularly if they have been taking it a long time. Simply being on narcotic pain medication does not rule out working. If you have to have the pain medication and you can't stay awake due to the side effects, you might have a better argument.
If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse and now you have chronic pain, you have a few options. I have some clients who choose to forego any pain medication at all. It is hard for a Social Security judge to think your disability has a substance abuse factor if you are not using any substances. But this is also a really difficult life if you have severe pain. There are lots of non-addictive pain medications that you can try. If you absolutely must use narcotic pain medicine, be completely honest with your doctor about your past substance abuse history. Go to AA or NA regularly and get a sponsor. Have a sheet that someone can initial showing that you are attending meetings regularly. Abstain from all alcohol and any other mood altering substance. Comply with your pain contract to the letter and have your pain doctor drug test you so there can be no question about whether you are abusing the narcotic pain medication. If possible, have your doctor write a letter to Social Security about whether your disability is related in any way to substance abuse.
Sometimes, people do develop a problem with their narcotic pain medications. It happens. The important thing is to recognize that it happened and talk to your doctor immediately. Every state offers substance abuse programs that you can get into. Social Security will be much more understanding if you are up front with your problems than if you try to hide the problem. You are not the first and you won't be the last. Go to rehab. Get help. Go to meetings. Get drug tested often if you can. Switch to non-narcotic pain relievers if you can.
Fundamentally, Social Security wants to know that you have a legitimate disability and that you are not using any problems you have as a way to get narcotics. Approach your treatment from that point of view and you should be fine. Just be aware that if you get pain medicine from lots of different doctors, you take more than you are supposed to, or you take medication that isn't yours, it is going to look very bad and you're going to have lots of trouble getting disability benefits.
If you have any further questions, please contact The Foster Law Firm at (480)621-7231 or at www.fosterlawaz.com.