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Can I Ask My Doctor for Stronger Painkillers?


Updated June 20, 2014

Question: Can I Ask My Doctor for Stronger Painkillers?
Answer: Absolutely.

One of the key components of managing chronic pain is finding the right painkiller. When you have acute pain, medications can be adjusted based on the type of pain you have. However, in chronic pain this is often a challenge.

Do you need stronger painkillers? You might, if you can answer “yes” to any of the following:

  • Do you frequently have breakthrough pain?
  • Is your current medication becoming less effective at controlling your pain?
  • Is your daily routine getting harder?
  • Is your quality of life decreasing?

Asking for Stronger Painkillers: Will I Look Like an Addict?

While it is true that opioid painkillers are one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, asking for them does not necessarily target you as an addict. Many people with chronic pain conditions simply cannot manage their pain with other types of medications. The attitudes toward the role of opioids in pain management are also changing. Studies show that with careful monitoring, addiction and abuse are not usually issues for people with legitimate chronic pain conditions.

Most physicians will consider the benefits of a stronger painkiller versus the potential risks. While it’s true that stronger painkillers like opioids carry a higher risk of tolerance and abuse, if they could possibly increase your quality of life they are worth a try. For the best outcomes, your doctor should follow up with your treatment regularly.

Remember: You can also do a trial of stronger painkillers to determine if they are right for you. If you are not happy with them, simply talk to your doctor about weaning off and trying something else.

Asking for Stronger Painkillers: Common Concerns

If you still have concerns about asking for stronger painkillers, have a look at some of the following articles.


American Chronic Pain Association. APCA Consumer Guide to Pain Medication and Treatment. 2009 Edition.

Blake Sue, Ruel Brian, Seamark Clare and Seamark David. Experiences of Patients Requiring Strong Opioid Drugs for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain: a Patient-Initiated Study. British Journal of General Practice. 2007 February 1; 57(535): 101–108.

Chou Roger, Fanciullo Gilbert J, Fine Perry G et al. Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Chronic Opioid Therapy in Chronic Noncancer Pain. The Journal of Pain. Volume 10, Issue 2. Pages 113-130.e22 (February 2009)

Hariharan Jaishree, Lamb Geoffrey C, and Neuner Joan M. Long-Term Opioid Contract Use for Chronic Pain Management in Primary Care Practice. A Five Year Experience. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2007 April; 22(4): 485–490.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Trends in Prescription Drug Abuse. Accessed 9/22/09. http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Prescription/prescription5.html#Trends

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