June 2018: Opioids: Get the Facts and Avoid Misuse

Opioids: Get the Facts and Avoid Misuse

Like many medicines, prescription opioids come with both benefits and risks. On the one hand, they may help relieve pain. But they also may be easily misused, leading to addiction and overdose. Even if you’ve never taken prescription pain meds, the following facts may help you better understand the problem. And if the need ever comes up for you, you’ll also find tips on working with your doctor or dentist to help ensure safe use.

What are opioids and why are they prescribed?

Opioids are drugs that relax the nervous system to reduce feelings of pain. They are prescribed to manage pain. Common prescription forms include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl

Is opioid addiction really an issue?

Yes. It’s a major public health concern. More than 60 percent of drug overdose deaths involve some type of opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Opioid misuse is increasing at alarming rates in the U.S. In 2017, the Office on Women’s Health released a report on the problem in women. Here’s one of the findings: Between 1999 and 2015, the rate of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses increased 471 percent among women. That’s compared to an increase of 218 percent among men.

Besides addiction and overdose, these pain relievers may cause side effects — even when taken as directed. These include:

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sex drive, energy and strength
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Higher sensitivity to pain
  • Itching and sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Physical dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms if stopped
  • Sleepiness and dizziness
  • Tolerance — having to take higher doses to get the same effect


What are my other options for pain relief?

Pain Scale


It starts with a simple question: what level is your pain at? Before taking opioids, talk with your doctor about what other types of care might help you better manage your pain–or to fix the cause of the pain altogether. These might include non-opioid medicines — as well as exercise and physical therapy.

Resources for Areas of Pain


If I’m prescribed opioids, how can I avoid misuse?

As with all medicines, only take opioids as directed. Never take more pills — or take pills more often — than prescribed. And talk with your doctor or dentist if you have concerns about side effects, including dependence.

  • Avoid alcohol while taking opioids.
  • Ask your doctor if it’s OK to take opioids with other medicines you may take.
  • Store all medicines in a secure place that’s out of the reach of children and others.
  • Never share pain relievers with other people.
  • Follow up regularly with your doctor about your care.



Article information taken from myUHC.com