Even in the midst of a national opioid crisis, it’s still perfectly normal for your doctor to prescribe opioids to help manage pain following an injury, surgery or other procedure. Here are 10 safety-related questions to ask your doctor when prescribed opioids.

Your Health | 12 days ago

10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Taking Opioids

Even in the midst of a national opioid crisis, it’s still perfectly normal for your doctor to prescribe opioids to help manage pain following an injury, surgery or other procedure. Here are 10 safety-related questions to ask your doctor when prescribed opioids.

After decades of opioids being overprescribed by doctors and misused by users, our nation is experiencing an opioid crisis. In fact, opioids were involved in more than 42,000 deaths in the US in 2016, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and opioid overdose deaths were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.

Opioids, a type of narcotic pain medicine (or pain reliever), are one of the most effective medicines for moderate to severe pain. However, they’re known to have a higher risk of addiction than your average pain medicine and their long-term use for chronic pain remains questionable.

“While you should be aware that opioids can have serious risks and side effects, for most people, taking opioids as prescribed by your doctor for a short period of time is safe and can reduce your pain effectively,” says Steven Jarrett, PharmD, a medication safety officer at Atrium Health.

So, what should you be aware of if you’re prescribed an opioid as part of your recovery?

Common opioids

The following are opioids that are often prescribed for pain.

  • Morphine  
  • Codeine 
  • Hydromorphone (Common brand includes Dilaudid) 
  • Hydrocodone (Common brands include Vicodin and Lortab) 
  • Oxycodone (Common brands include OxyContin and Percocet) 
  • Meperidine (Common brand includes Demerol)  
  • Fentanyl  
  • Tramadol  

If you receive a prescription for one of these, you may want to ask your doctor the questions below.

10 questions to ask your doctor when prescribed opioids

Even opioids that are prescribed by your doctor come with potential risks including addiction and substance abuse. A conversation with your doctor can help you avoid these risks.

Ask your doctor the following questions to better understand how opioids interact with other medicines, common side effects, best storage practices and more.

  1. Why do I need this opioid?
  2. What are the most common side effects of this medicine? Are there ways to minimize these effects?
  3. Are there alternative treatments or medicines that could help me relieve my pain?
  4. Are there ways to lower the dosage or length of time that I need this medicine?
  5. How long should I take this opioid and how do I wean myself off this medicine?
  6. Does this opioid interact with any other medicines I’m currently taking?
  7. What if there’s a history of addiction in my family?
  8. Can I share this medicine with a family member if he or she is having pain?
  9. How should I store this medicine to prevent others from taking it?
  10. What should I do if I have leftover opioids?

 

Your doctor can also discuss whether naloxone, an anti-overdose medication, is appropriate for you. Naloxone is prescribed by doctors and given either by trained medical professionals or a trained family member. It reverses the harmful effects of an opioid overdose and can save lives.


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