Education and awareness are key when you or a loved one is prescribed an opioid medication. Use the information and resources below to educate yourself on prescription opioids, overdose, safe disposal and preventing misuse.

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Understanding Prescription Opioids

Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that relieve pain.

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Preventing Misuse

The misuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health problem in the United States. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly…

Doctor and patient exchanging a prescription bottle

Tips for Safe Disposal

Prescription drugs play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it is important to dispose of them promptly and properly to help reduce the danger of…

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Opioid Overdose

Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) and illicit opioids (like heroin and illegally made fentanyl) are powerful drugs that have a risk of a potentially fatal overdose.

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Resources

To learn more about opioids to protect yourself and your loved ones from opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose visit…

Understanding Prescription Opioids

Opioids are natural or synthetic chemicals that relieve pain. Common types include:

  • Hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin)
  • Morphine
  • Methadone

Prescription opioids can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following surgery or injury, or for health conditions such as cancer.

Opioids and Chronic Pain

Many Americans suffer from chronic pain, which is a major public health concern in the United States. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis, despite serious risks and the lack of evidence about their long-term effectiveness. The number of opioids prescribed and sold in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, but the overall incidence of pain reported hasn’t changed.

Risks and Side Effects

In addition to serious risks of addiction, abuse, and overdose, the use of prescription opioids can have many side effects, even when taken as directed:

  • Tolerance, meaning you might need to take more of the medication for the same pain relief
  • Physical dependence, meaning you have symptoms of withdrawal when the medication is stopped
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Constipation
  • Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength
  • Itching and sweating

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the risks and benefits of opioids before beginning opioid therapy. Learn more about opioids and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from abuse, addiction, and overdose by visiting CDC.gov/drugoverdose.

Source: CDC.gov

Preventing Misuse

Misuse of Prescription Drugs

The misuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health problem in the United States. Although most people take prescription medications responsibly, an estimated 54 million people (more than 20 percent of those aged 12 and older) have used prescription medications for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes.

Misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria (i.e., to get high). The reasons for the high prevalence of prescription drug misuse vary by age, gender, and other factors, but likely include ease of access.

Prescription drug misuse can have serious medical consequences. Increases in prescription drug misuse over the last 15 years are reflected in increased emergency room visits, overdose deaths associated with prescription drugs, and treatment admissions for prescription drug use disorders, the most severe form of which is addiction.

  • ABOUT 21 TO 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • BETWEEN 8 AND 12% continue opioid use despite clinically significant distress or impairment.
  • AN ESTIMATED 4 TO 6% who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • ABOUT 80% of people who use heroin first used prescription opioids.

Tips to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

Ensuring proper use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs is important in reducing accidents, thefts, and the misuse and abuse of medications.

  • STAY ALERT. Family, friends and visitors can get into your medicine cabinet without you even knowing it. Make sure your medications don’t wind up in the wrong hands.
  • NEVER SHARE. Don’t let other people use your medications. Even if you think you’re helping to relieve their pain, it can result in serious, even fatal, consequences.
  • DISPOSE OF THE EXTRA. Take advantage of your local drug take-back events, or safely discard medications at home with a drug deactivation pouch.
  • KEEP IT SECURE. Take the proper precautions to store your medications in a safe and secure location.

Talk to your Good Neighbor Pharmacy pharmacist today to learn about steps you can take to keep your medications safe and out of the wrong hands. Additional tips for safe disposal of prescription drugs are available here.

Source: CDC.gov

Tips for Safe Disposal

Prescription drugs play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it is important to dispose of them promptly and properly to help reduce the danger of accidental exposure or intentional misuse. Below, we list some options and special instructions for you to consider when disposing of expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.

Transfer Unused Medicine to Authorized Collectors for Disposal

Medicine take-back programs are a good way to safely dispose of most types of unneeded medicines. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs. Local law enforcement agencies may also sponsor medicine take-back programs in your community. Likewise, consumers can contact their local waste management authorities to learn about medication disposal options and guidelines for their areas.

Another option for disposing of unneeded medicines is to transfer unused medicines to collectors registered with the DEA. DEA-authorized collectors safely and securely collect and dispose of pharmaceuticals containing controlled substances and other medicines. In your community, authorized collection sites may be retail pharmacies, hospital or clinic pharmacies, and law enforcement locations. Some authorized collection sites may also offer mail-back programs or collection receptacles, sometimes called “drop-boxes,” to assist consumers in safely disposing of their unused medicines.

Visit the DEA’s website for more information about drug disposal and National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events, or to locate a DEA-authorized collector in your area.

Disposal in Household Trash

If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, and there are no specific disposal instructions on the drug label, you can also follow the steps outlined below to dispose of most medicines in the household trash.

Source: FDA.gov

Opioid Overdose

Opioid Overdose Basics

Prescription opioids (like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) and illicit opioids (like heroin and illegally made fentanyl) are powerful drugs that have a risk of a potentially fatal overdose. Anyone who uses opioids can experience an overdose, but certain factors may increase risk, including:

  • Combining opioids with alcohol or certain other drugs
  • Taking high daily dosages of prescription opioids
  • Taking more opioids than prescribed
  • Taking illicit or illegal opioids, like heroin or illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which could possibly contain unknown or harmful substances
  • Certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea or reduced kidney or liver function
  • Being more than 65 years old

Signs and Symptoms of an Opioid Overdose

During an overdose, breathing can be dangerously slowed or stopped, causing brain damage or death. It’s important to recognize the signs and act fast. Signs include:

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
  • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Pale, blue, or cold skin

What to Do if You Think Someone Is Overdosing

It may be hard to tell if a person is high or experiencing an overdose. If you aren’t sure, it’s best to treat it like an overdose—you could save a life.

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Administer naloxone, if available.
  • Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
  • Lay the person on his or her side to prevent choking.
  • Stay with him or her until emergency workers arrive.

Death from an opioid overdose happens when too much of the drug overwhelms the brain and interrupts the body’s natural drive to breathe. To learn more about opioids to protect yourself and your loved ones from opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose, visit these resources:

Source: FDA.gov

Resources

To learn more about opioids to protect yourself and your loved ones from opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose visit these resources:

If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid abuse or addiction, help can be found by visiting these resources: