Treatment Agreements: What You Need to Know Before Signing

By Karen Lee Richards 

If you go to a pain clinic or pain management specialist, you will almost certainly be required to sign a treatment agreement in order to be treated.   Even if your family physician or other specialist is handling your pain management, if you are being prescribed controlled substances (e.g., hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam, etc.) on a regular basis, you may be asked to sign a treatment agreement.

When you're asked to sign this agreement you may be so desperate for pain relief, you'd be willing to sign anything – even without reading it carefully or understanding it completely.  However, if you don't understand and abide by every point in that agreement, you could find yourself without pain medication, facing withdrawal, and unable to find another doctor who will prescribe it for you. 

It Happened To Them

Following are some examples of people who found themselves in this situation (names have been changed): 

•    Brenda felt like the dosage of oxycodone her pain specialist had prescribed was too strong because she was feeling “high” and had difficulty functioning.  Thinking she was doing a good thing, she took less medication.  At her next appointment, she was given a drug test, which showed that she did not have the prescribed amount of oxycodone in her system.

•    Frank had some dental work done and the oral surgeon gave him a prescription for hydrocodone.  When Frank took it to the pharmacy, the pharmacist refused to fill it and immediately contacted his pain clinic. 

•    Vivian's husband hurt his back over the weekend.  She couldn't stand to see him in so much pain, so she gave him some of her oxycodone to help ease his pain until he could get to the doctor on Monday.  This caused her prescription to run short, so she cut her dosage in half the last few days of the month.  When she went in to get her refill prescription, she was given a drug test, which revealed she only had half the amount of oxycodone in her system that she should have. 

•    Kevin was having a really bad day and his fentanyl patches just weren't giving him enough pain relief to allow him to get his work done.  He had some oxycodone left over from before he started seeing the pain specialist so he took it to help with the breakthrough pain.  His doctor's office called and asked him to come in a couple of days early for his appointment.  When he arrived, he was given a drug test, which showed the oxycodone in his system.

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