Rx Aware: Prescription Opioid Awareness

Opioids: What you need to know:

Prescription painkillers like opioids are a growing problem—both nationwide and right here in Vermont. In fact, over 72,000 people died from opioid misuse in the U.S. in 2017 alone.

But what are opioids?

  • Opioids are a class of drug most commonly used to manage things like chronic pain, muscle pain, and pain from surgery.
  • Vicodin® , Percocet ®, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Fentanyl—and even heroin—all fall into this class of drug.
  • Opioids are potentially dangerous, even when taken as directed by a doctor.

If you’re in pain, or recently received an opioid prescription, read these tips for minimizing dangerous side effects.

Always ask these 3 questions before taking opioids

1.     “What’s my risk of addiction?”

Opioids affect different people in different ways, but they are all highly addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can develop in as little as a few days, and likelihood of addiction skyrockets after just one refill. If your doctor prescribes opioids for your pain, always ask them about your risk of dependency, number of refills needed, and other risks you should be aware of.

2.     “Are there alternatives I should try first?”

Your doctor can suggest or prescribe a number of pain management options other than prescription opioids. Always ask your doctor if other pain management approaches might be a better fit for your recovery. Read more about alternatives to opioids below.

3.     “What’s the minimum dosage I need?”

Opioids are very powerful and can be very dangerous. Always ask your doctor about the minimum dosage and duration needed for your injury to reduce your risk of addiction, side effects, accidental overdose or re-injury.

Are There Alternatives to Opioids?

Opioids are prescribed to manage pain, but they aren’t designed to heal your injury. In fact, studies show that in some cases alternative treatment options lead to a bigger reduction in long term-pain intensity. Managing your pain with prescription opioids and returning to normal activities too quickly, can lead to re-injury or delay your progress.

Remember, your doctor is there to help. Before starting a prescription, always ask them about alternative treatment options that may be a better fit for your needs.