What You Should Know About Opioids

Prescription opioid questions to ask your health care provider

(RxWiki News) Deadly opioid overdoses are still on the rise in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here's what you should know.

Last year, 33,091 people in the U.S. lost their lives due to an overdose that involved a prescription or illicit opioid. In the last 16 years, more than 300,000 Americans have died from an opioid overdose.

"Too many Americans are feeling the devastation of the opioid crisis either from misuse of prescription opioids or use of illicit opioids," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a press release.

Opioids include medicines like morphine, codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. These medications are approved to treat certain kinds of acute and chronic pain. 

If you or a loved one has been prescribed an opioid, ask your health care provider the following questions to help prevent misuse.

1) Why do I need this medication? Is it right for me?

It is important to tell your health care provider if you or a family member has a history of substance misuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol, as well as a history of smoking cigarettes. Taking opioids may not be an option for you.

In addition, opioids may interact with other medications you are taking. Tell your health care provider about all of the medicines you take, especially those used to treat anxiety, seizures or sleep problems.

In some cases, there are non-opioid options that could help with pain relief. Ask if these medications may be an option for you. 

2) How should I take my medication?

Make sure you know exactly how to take your medication. Be sure to ask your health care provider what you should do if you still feel pain. 

Always follow the directions on the label of your prescription bottle. Do not change your dosing regimen or take another dose without first discussing it with your health care provider. 

Medications to treat pain can cause many side effects. Make sure you know what side effects you may encounter. Ask your health care provider about how best to manage these side effects and identify the serious ones.

For example, some opioids can cause you to feel dizzy and drowsy, so you shouldn't drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how your medication will affect you.

3) How long should I take this medication?

Your health care provider will more than likely start at the lowest dose and prescribe a small quantity of medication. Make sure you understand how long you will need to take the medication.

Do not suddenly stop your medication unless you're directed to do so by your health care provider. If you have been taking your medication for a long period of time, your doctor will slower taper you off to prevent serious problems like withdrawals.  

4) How should I store and dispose of my medication?

Make sure you understand how to properly store your opioid medicine. Storing it in a secure place is important if you have teenagers or young children who can have an accidental overdose, which can be deadly.

Make sure you know what to do with unused opioid medications. Do not keep these medications in case you have more pain later. Instead, speak to your local pharmacist about his or her next drug take-back program. These programs allow you to bring in your unused medication for proper disposal.

Don't ever give your unused medication to a relative or friend. Your prescription was meant for you and only you. What is a safe dose for you may lead to an overdose for someone else.

It may also be a good idea to ask your health care provider whether you should also receive a prescription for naloxone. Naloxone is a potentially life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Last Updated:
December 28, 2016