DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Concerned Daughter," whose elderly mother is being prescribed narcotic medication.
The daughter indicates that the narcotics were prescribed for "aches and pains." Generally speaking, narcotics are not prescribed for general aches and pains. I've had 20 years' experience working alongside physicians and have never seen this happen. Narcotic medication is used to treat pain associated with cancer, injury or other serious pain conditions.
No one is able to feel another's pain. If "Concerned Daughter's" mother has a condition that requires strong medication, that is her physician's decision. I agree that it's important for the daughter to meet with the physician. There may be a condition that the daughter is unaware of. It may be that narcotic medication is the only treatment for the mother because of her age, poor surgical risk, etc.
Chronic, serious pain can have a debilitating effect on an individual, seriously impairing the quality of life. Patients with chronic pain should not be considered addicts simply because they are treated with narcotics. Addiction must be placed in proper perspective. Physical dependence and tolerance of drugs are not the same as addiction. Addiction is aberrant behavior and compulsive use of drugs for non-medical purposes.
Individuals who suffer pain should be viewed with compassion. -- EXPERIENCED IN PAIN
DEAR EXPERIENCED: No one should have to suffer pain when relief is available. However, since many seniors have difficulty monitoring their medications, they are at risk of not only addiction but serious drug interactions as well.
If a physician determines that a senior patient needs narcotic medication, it would be a kindness for a family member to stay involved to ensure the medication is taken as prescribed.