Opioids are potent painkillers prescribed by your healthcare provider for moderate to severe pain. Although taking opioids has some risks, they can help you control pain. When taking opioids, it is important to follow directions given by your healthcare provider.
You may be prescribed opioids if other medications do not help relieve pain or may affect cancer treatment. Opioids can help you control your pain so you can do daily activities and improve your quality of life.
Commonly prescribed opioids include:
- hydrocodone (Vicodin®);
- oxycodone (Percocet, Oxycontin®);
- hydromorphone (Dilaudid®);
- morphine (Duramorph);
- Fentanyl patch (Duragesic);
- codeine (codeine sulfate);
- tramadol (Ultram®);
- methadone (Dolophine®);
- meperidine (Demerol®).
What is an opioid epidemic?
The opioid epidemic is a recent increase in cases of opioid dependence (addiction to these substances) and deaths due to the use of opioids. Its cause is the misuse of opioids. The misuse of opioids is as follows:
- not taking opioids as your health care provider indicated;
- taking opioids prescribed to another person;
- taking opioids when they are not needed.
- You can safely control your pain with opioids by following the directions from your healthcare provider.
How can I take opioids safely?
You can take opioids safely by following these tips:
- take them as intended. Follow your healthcare professional’s instructions when taking opioids. Do not take opioids at a higher dosage or more often than indicated by your physician.
- make a list of all the medicines you take. This list should include all your opioids, other medications, and dietary supplements (such as herbs, vitamins, and home remedies). It is important to keep track of the names, dosages, and frequency of medication. Bring this list with you to all receptions.
- do not take alcohol or soft drugs while taking opioids.
- keep them safe. Keep opioids in a safe place, where others cannot reach (these may include guests, children, friends, pets and family members).
- if you do not need them, do not store them. Dispose of unused or expired opioids when you no longer need them.
- use opioids that have been prescribed for you. Do not give your opioids to another person and do not take other people’s opioids yourself.
- talk with your healthcare provider about a dosage adjustment. Due to the opioid abuse, you may experience side effects. This does not mean that you have an addiction. This is a normal reaction to withdrawal the medicine too quickly. If you want to increase or decrease the dosage or stop taking opioids, ask your healthcare provider how to do this in a safe way.