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  Medication Concerns and Questions

If I have lots of pain, does that mean I'm in bad shape? Pain is not a measure of disease advancement. Some people have severe pain early in the disease process; others have no pain. Pain depends solely on the location and involvement of the disease, not on how far along it is.

How will my pain be controlled? Your physician and nurse will work with you so that you are as pain-free and alert as possible. The nurse will ask you at each visit how your pain and comfort have been and will need honest answers from you about your pain.

Should I take my pain medicine only if it gets really bad? It is proven that the best way to control pain is to prevent it. Your physician and nurse will encourage you to take your pain medicine regularly rather than only when needed, for example, every 4, 6, 8 or 12 hours. You'll sleep better and generally feel better if you keep your pain under control.

What is the correct dose that I should be taking? The correct dose of pain medicine is the dose that is prescribed by your physician. If your pain is not under control, notify a member of the hospice team.

If I take pain medicines, such as narcotics, will I sleep all the time? It is normal to experience mild drowsiness the first two to three days when narcotics are prescribed. This is due to your body getting much-needed rest. Fighting pain is exhausting. Recognize such sleepiness as a good thing.
After the first few days, you will feel and sleep better as your pain will be under control. Narcotic medication is often in a long-acting form, so you can have longer pain relief. Many people find that taking a non-narcotic analgesic (like Aspirin, Tylenol or Ibuprofen) gives relief between the narcotic doses.

If I take pain medicine too often, will I get addicted? People fear addiction needlessly. You will not become addicted because there is a real need for the medication - pain relief. Only 1 in 1,000 people with pain has been shown to become addicted.

What if I can't swallow? There are many ways to deliver pain medicine. If you have difficulty swallowing, other ways will be suggested.

What if I don't want to take morphine because it's so strong and is used as a last resort? Morphine is no longer viewed as a "last resort" for pain control. It is easy to use, easy to change, offers the best relief for people who have pain and has a very wide "window" of safety.

I've heard there are side effects from taking narcotics. What if I don't want to take them? To prevent the common side effects from narcotics, your physician and nurse will suggest such medications as laxatives, anti-nausea medications and antihistamines.

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