Opioids: A Necessary but Deadly Prescription

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, almost 19,000 people died in 2014 from drug overdoses related to prescription pain relievers such oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. Following are safe practices to help reduce these numbers.

If your doctor provides a large prescription for pain relievers, consider only partially filling it. If you need more, you can always fill the balance of the prescription.

Never mix your prescription pain medication with other drugs, especially sleep aids or anti-anxiety medications. Combined with painkillers, these can cause coma, cardiac arrest, and death. More than half of the mentioned 2014 opiate overdoses were due to a combination of opioid painkillers and other medications.

Dose only as prescribed and stay “ahead” of the pain by taking the medication as directed. Waiting until you are in extreme pain before dosing can cause you to take more medication in an attempt to control your pain. This can lead to respiratory depression and death.

Discard unused medication. Keeping it around the house “just in case” is not a good practice. Safely dispose of unused pills. Some cities participate in National Prescription Take-Back Days. Some provide permanent drop-boxes, and some police stations accept returns. If you must keep unused medications, secure them. Thieves and youngsters often raid medicine cabinets for drugs.

Opioids are often a necessary part of healing after deep dental work, a serious injury, or surgery. How you handle your prescription can mean the difference between successful healing and the risk of overdose or lifelong addiction.