Using Prescribed Opioid Pain Medications Safely

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — September 23, 2021 — 4 min read
The misuse of prescribed opioid pain medication is still a crisis. Many efforts are being made to prevent opioid use disorders. And as patients, we also have a say in this issue.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected existing and newly vulnerable populations. The number of cases of opioid substance use disorders continues to climb.

As patients, many of us may wonder: Are we powerless amid this reality? How can we prevent developing an opioid substance use disorder?

Here are a few recommendations that everyone involved in health care can take. You included!
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Steps to Prevent Opioid Substance Use Disorders

No one escapes the danger of developing an opioid use disorder. Studies confirm that anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them.

 

Some people have risk factors that make them more vulnerable. Some of these include:
  • Getting overlapping prescriptions from multiple providers and pharmacies
  • Taking high daily dosages of prescription opioid pain relievers
  • Having a mental illness or a history of alcohol or other substance use disorders
The good news is that we can fight this together. Here are some recommendations by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and The More Powerful Campaign in North Carolina.

Patients

Have a conversation with your doctor and ask about opioid medications and alternatives. The goal is to make sure you’ll make a safe and informed decision with your doctor about your medication plan. These are some questions you may want to ask your physician:
  • Why do I need this medication?
  • Is this an opioid? What are the risks?
  • Are there non-opioid alternatives that could help me?
  • Is this medication safe to take with my other medications?
  • Is this the lowest dose possible? Should I get fewer pills?
  • How and when should I decrease the medication?
  • How should I store my medication?
  • What should I do with unused and/or expired medicine?
  • What if I and/or my family have a history of substance use disorder with tobacco, alcohol, or other substances?
  • Can I have a prescription for naloxone (Narcan) to keep on hand in case of an overdose?
  • Follow the directions as explained on the label or by the pharmacist
  • Don’t stop or change the dosage without first discussing it with the doctor
  • Never use another person’s prescription and never give their prescription medications to others
  • Store and dispose of prescription stimulants, sedatives, and opioids safely
Parenthood to End Addiction offers resources for parents. Check them out if your child is prescribed an opioid medication.

Clinicians

  • Ask patients about all drugs to identify possible problems with the way they are using any medication
  • Provide or refer people to appropriate treatment and set recovery goals
  • Include screening tools for non-medical use of prescription drugs
  • Take note of rapid increases in the amount of medication needed or frequent, unscheduled refill requests
  • Be alert when patients start moving from provider to provider to obtain multiple prescriptions

Pharmacists

  • Help patients understand the instructions for taking their medications
  • Explain to patients how the medication works for their condition
  • Be alert for prescription falsifications or alterations
  • Use hotlines to alert other pharmacies in the region when they detect a fraudulent prescription
  • Use  Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) to track opioid-prescribing and dispensing patterns in patients

Resources and Help

The development of effective, non-addicting pain medications is a public health priority. In the meanwhile, here are resources available today for help and prevention: *On Sundays and after 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, you will be directed to leave a voicemail for the next business day follow-up. However, there will be a prompt on this line routing you to the Access Crisis Line for any urgent needs.
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