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Opioid Safety

Talk to your medical provider about ways to manage pain that do not include prescription opioids. Other methods may work better – with fewer side effects and risks. 

Depending on your situation, options may include:

  • acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • exercise therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help you learn how to modify physical, behavioral and emotional triggers of pain and stress

Opioids are a class of controlled drugs naturally found in opium poppy plants. Some prescription opioids come from the plant directly while scientists in labs make others. They contain chemicals that relax the body and doctors prescribe them to assist patients with moderate to severe pain.

Opioids can be highly addictive, and overdoses or death can be common results if not handled appropriately. If you have pain and your doctor prescribes opioids, there are things you can do to prevent misuse. Work with your doctor to create a plan. Know your options and consider ways you can manage pain without an opioid. 

Common Prescription Opioids 

Heroin is one of the world’s most dangerous opioids but medicine in the United States would never use it. Common generic prescriptions include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone

Filling a Naloxone Prescription

Naloxone is a medication that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. You can request a prescription for naloxone from your provider or pharmacist. Your provider or pharmacist will discuss the importance of naloxone with you and provide a prescription.

Appropriate Use and Disposal

You may receive a prescription for a specific amount of opioid medicine for a limited amount of time to control your pain. Always take your opioid medication according to the directions. Do not take extra doses of the medication. Let your provider know what other medications you are taking. For the safest care while taking opioids, make every effort to remain in the care of one provider. 

Opioids cause drowsiness. Do not mix alcohol or “street drugs” with your opioid medication. Make sure you read the information handout included with your prescription. 

When you don’t need unused pills or want an expired prescription, make sure you give them to an official drug take-back program to protect you, your family and your community.

The MHS Drug Take-Back Program is available at all military pharmacies in the United States and its territories. The program accepts the following items:

  • Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  • Pills, tablets, capsules
  • Ointments
  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Powders
  • No more than 4 oz. for liquid medicines 

You may take a mail-in envelope from the pharmacy or drop prescription drugs onsite in secure bins. Find out which collection option you can use at your military hospital or clinic

Other community-sponsored drug take-back events can also accept drugs, but pharmacists and other pharmacy staff cannot accept drugs from a patient for disposal per DEA rules.

Signs of Misuse

When taken as directed, prescription drugs are safe and effective. Misuse can be dangerous and potentially deadly.

Here are signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing an overdose:

  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Deep snoring or gurgling/rattling
  • Unresponsive to sound and touch
  • Slow or no heart rate or pulse
  • Blue lips and/or fingertips

You also may be interested in...

Opioid Abuse and Non-Opiate Pain Management

Congressional Testimony

H.R. 6157, HAC Report for FY 2019, 115-769, Pg. 298

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Opioid Safety | Pain Management
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