Opioids, also known as opiates or narcotics, are medications used to treat pain. However, it’s essential to recognize that opioids can be dangerous, even when prescribed and taken responsibly. Whether used in controlled doses or obtained from other sources, opioids carry significant risks. To ensure your safety and the safety of others, it is crucial to be informed and adopt strategies for responsible opioid use.
Here are some important points to consider:
- Be Aware of Different Sources of Opioids: Opioids can be obtained from various sources, including prescribed medications, medicines obtained from family or friends, or illicit drugs. Non-prescribed opioids and street drugs pose additional risks as their ingredients and strength may be unknown. Counterfeit pills, for example, may contain dangerous substances like fentanyl or carfentanil.
- Maintain Communication with Healthcare Providers: It’s vital to inform your healthcare provider about all the medications and substances you are taking. This includes both prescribed and non-prescribed substances. Some combinations of medications can interact and lead to harmful effects, including overdose and even death. Openly communicating with your healthcare team helps ensure your safety.
- Plan for Treatment Goals and Options: When it comes to managing pain, opioids may not be the most effective long-term solution, especially for non-cancer-related chronic pain. Your healthcare team will work with you to establish treatment goals and discuss various options that can improve your quality of life, such as increasing mobility, participating in activities you enjoy, and exploring alternative pain management methods.
- Understand the Risks Involved: Opioids carry serious risks,these risks include respiratory depression (overdose), addiction (opioid use disorder), and other side effects. Increasing the opioid dose amplifies the likelihood of experiencing these risks.
- Note there are Increased Risks with Certain Conditions and Substances: Individuals with health conditions like sleep apnea, breathing problems, liver problems, or kidney problems may have a higher risk of overdose and side effects, even when taking low doses of opioids. Combining opioids with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other sedating medications can also increase the risk of adverse effects and overdose. It is strongly advised not to mix these substances with opioids.
Steps to Prevent Opioid Addiction:
- Limit Use for Acute Pain: Opioids are safest when used for short periods (three days or less) to manage acute pain, such as post-surgical or fracture pain. If opioids are necessary, work with your doctor to take the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration, strictly following the prescribed instructions.
- Explore Alternatives for Chronic Pain: For chronic pain management, opioids are not the recommended long-term treatment option. Numerous alternatives, including less addictive pain medications and non-pharmacological therapies, can be considered. Aim for a treatment plan that allows you to live a fulfilling life without relying on opioids, whenever possible.
- Safeguard and Dispose of Medications: Take measures to prevent opioid misuse in your family and community. Safely store opioid medications while using them and dispose of any unused opioids properly. Local law enforcement agencies, trash and recycling services, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can provide information about medication take-back programs in your area. If no take-back program is available, consult your pharmacist for guidance.
- Community Responsibility: Recognize that nobody is immune to the risks of opioid addiction. We all have a role to play in combating the opioid crisis. By raising awareness, promoting responsible use, and supporting prevention efforts, we can collectively tackle the impact opioids have on our loved ones and communities.
- Drug Prescription Monitoring Program (DPMP): Are a tool for physicians and pharmacies at a state-level that electronically track controlled substance prescriptions, offering timely data to address opioid prescribing issues, patient behaviors, and epidemic responses. PDMPs show promise in enhancing clinical practice, curbing abuse, and safeguarding at-risk patients. Evaluations highlight shifts in prescription patterns, reduced use of multiple providers, and lowered substance abuse treatment admissions.
By understanding the risks associated with opioids and implementing preventive measures, we can contribute to the effective management of the opioid crisis and ensure the safety and well-being of ourselves and others.