Opioids are strong prescription painkillers that come with a big responsibility. A 2017 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that one-third of adults in the United States were prescribed an opioid in 2015.

While these powerful pain medications have their place—such as when recovering from surgery or treating cancer pain—misuse can lead to addiction, overdose, or even death. An estimated 48 Americans die from overdosing on prescription opioids every day. Women age 65 and older have the highest rate of prescription opioid use, according to recent studies, and use by women ages 45 to 64 is increasing the fastest among all gender and age groups.

If you get a pain prescription, ask your doctor if it’s an opioid and discuss these important issues to treat your pain safely:

Keep opioid prescriptions in a safe place. Keep these medications locked up. Accidental opioid poisoning can be fatal for young children. Easy access for friends and family members can lead to misuse. When you are feeling better, dispose of any leftover medication. Call your health care provider or local police for safe locations to dispose of them.

Follow the prescription exactly. Don’t increase your dose or take it more often than instructed. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other prescription or over-the-counter medications you take, especially sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs, to avoid any possibly dangerous drug interactions. For short-term pain needs, you also can talk to your prescribing doctor about requesting a smaller quantity of opioids when he or she writes the prescription.

Ask about alternatives to opioids. Opioids don’t work well for every patient or every condition. Often, non-medication alternatives such as physical therapy, injections, and exercise can be effective for some types of chronic pain. Other non-opioid pain relievers or medications for underlying conditions may also be an option for other types of pain, such as arthritis and migraines.

SMGOR and Opioid Education
International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31 each year. The day aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. At SMGOR, we know that prescription drug overdose deaths are preventable, and we aim to do all we can to educate our patients and the public about opioids—their benefits, and the dangers of misuse. For more information, please click here.

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