Ask the Expert: My Pain Medication No Longer Works, What Should I Do Now?

Health Professional

Question: I have been living with RA since 1991. For the last 5-6 years I have been on Vicodin of various strengths. The Vicodin no longer works, not even taking the edge off of the pain anymore. My doctor is hesitant to give me anything stronger. He says the next step is narcotics and there is the danger of addition. I frankly don't care anymore. So what if I get addicted to something? At least I'll have some kind of a life, be able to hopefully function better. I pretend all day every day that I'm doing ok. I'm tired of it.

I have tried the Duragesic patch but I had some problems with it and had to go off. That did help a little bit. I simply don't understand why I can't take a medication that will help me. Do you have any advice?

Answer: Well, I hate to be the one to break the news, but Vicodin is a narcotic. And Vicodin can be very addicting.

You need to talk to a rheumatologist. Rheumatoid arthritis in most cases should not be treated only with pain medications. Pain medications, whether they be narcotics or Tylenol, do not stop the inflammation and destructive progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Pain medications will not stop a rheumatoid arthritis patient from developing deformities.

There are many disease modifying drugs from which you and your doctor can choose.