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When it comes to managing your health, we understand that you may have questions.  At Navitus, we want to help you get the answers you need to reach your health improvement goals. Check out our resources below to get the latest information on conditions, treatments and other health-related issues. 

Opioids

Video - Watch our new opioids video to learn about the safe and effective use of these medications.

Infographic - Check out our infographic for at-a-glance tips on how to use opioids safely and effectively.

FAQs - Peruse our FAQs on opioids to get tips on how to safely use these medications. You’ll also learn how to recognize addiction symptoms and get help for you or your loved ones.

What is a prescription opioid?

Opioids are pain relievers prescribed by a physician. They are usually prescribed to people who have cancer or chronic pain, or if they are recovering from an injury or surgery.

Opioids are a topic of concern right now because the U.S. is experiencing what’s generally been referred to as an “epidemic,” meaning opioid abuse is a problem that’s taken a huge toll on public health.

Prescription opioids can be taken safely. But because of their highly addictive properties, abuse can lead to the use of illicit drugs (such as heroin), which quickly increases the risk of death or injury.

I don’t know if I’m taking an opioid. What are some examples?

There are several opioid pain relievers on the market, both brand and generic. Below we’ve listed some of the most common generic medication names.

  • Oxycodone ER
  • Oxycodone with acetaminophen
  • Morphine sulfate
  • Hydrocodone with acetaminophen
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl patches
  • Hydromorphone

If your medicine isn’t included on the list above, or if you don’t know if your current medication regimen includes an opioid, reach out to your doctor or pharmacist.

It looks like I do take a prescription opioid. How should I keep it safe from others? How do I keep myself safe?

Always store prescription medicine in childproof containers. Keep them locked up and safe from friends, family, children, and pets.

Remember to take your medicine as directed. For example, if your medicine label reads, “Take 1-2 tablets by mouth every 4-6 hours as needed,” that does not mean that you need to take 2 tablets every 4 hours around the clock. Always assess your pain levels once 4 or 6 hours have passed, and take your next dose accordingly. If you feel mild-to-moderate pain, err on the side of taking a lower dose.

Unlike certain medicine (such as antibiotics), if you start to feel better, you may stop taking your prescription opioids. There is no need to finish an entire bottle if you are no longer experiencing pain.

What should I do with extra medicine that I no longer need?

Safe disposal of your medicine is vital to keeping your loved ones safe. Drug take-back events are the best way to dispose of unused medicine. Controlled substance public disposal locations also exist in many areas. Visit https://apps.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e5s1 to learn more. Ask your pharmacy if they participate in a mail-back program where you can dispose of unused opioids.

As a last resort, you can dispose of your medicine at home in the trash or by flushing. Please follow these instructions when disposing of medicine in the garbage:

1. Mix with an unpleasant substance, such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
2. Place in a sealed plastic bag.
3. Throw into your household trash.
4. Scratch out personal information on your pill bottle, and dispose of it separately.

Some medicines should be immediately flushed when not needed to prevent accidental exposure. Visit https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ to learn more.

How do I know if I’m in danger of becoming dependent or addicted to prescription opioids?

Remember that for acute pain, no more than three days’ worth of prescription opioid medicine is recommended. The dosage and duration differs, though, for those who suffer from chronic pain.
There are distinct warning signs when it comes to recognizing opioid dependence and addiction. Watch for:

  • Use of multiple doctors, also known as “doctor shopping.” Someone may be addicted if they contact many physicians in order to satisfy their need for opioid pain relievers.
  • Spending significant time trying to obtain medicine. This is a sign that other parts of someone’s life have become unimportant, and getting their next “fix” has consumed their time, negatively affecting their well being.
  • Stealing or sharing someone else’s medicine. If someone else has been prescribed this medicine, that means they need it! Their health is also being put at risk in an attempt to satisfy an addiction.

If you’re concerned about your own health, we encourage you to speak with your doctor as soon as possible. If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, and the situation is not an emergency, contact a local substance abuse facility to learn more about what you can do. If you’re concerned that someone may be overdosing, call 911 right away.

What are the side effects of prescription opioids?

Dependence and/or addiction is just one possible side effect of using prescription opioids. Other side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting

It’s important to avoid certain activities, such as drinking alcohol or driving a car, while taking prescription opioids.

I’ve heard about a medicine that police officers carry with them to help with overdoses. Can you tell me more about that?

Police officers and other emergency personnel carry a medicine called naloxone to help when someone is experiencing an overdose.

If you think you or someone you know may be at risk for overdose, we encourage you to learn about naloxone. Naloxone is an injection or inhalant that can be used to reverse the effects of a suspected opioid overdose. It works by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain and by restoring breathing. 

If you or someone you know abuses opioids, you can get a prescription to keep naloxone on hand in case of an emergency.

I understand that alternative therapies may be available. Can you tell me more?

There are medicinal and non-medicinal ways, which are referred to as alternative therapies, to relieve pain. Talk with your doctor to determine what’s best for you.

Medicinal Therapy
Depending on the injury and pain level, non-opioid pain relievers may do the trick. Some examples include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. These medicines are available in over-the-counter formulations as well as prescription dosages. Always talk to your doctor first to determine the best option for you.

Non-Medicinal Therapy
Sometimes medicine isn’t the right answer. Again, depending on the injury and pain level, one of the following may be a good solution for your personal health.

  • Acupuncture
  • Physical Therapy
  • Massage Therapy
  • Gentle exercise, such as yoga 
How would I or someone I know get help with opioid addiction?

Contact a health care professional. Certain medicines can be prescribed by a physician to treat opioid addiction:

  • Buprenorphine and naloxone buccal film
  • Buprenorphine implant for subdermal administration
  • Buprenorphine ER injection for subcutaneous use
  • Buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual film for sublingual or buccal use
  • Buprenorphine sublingual tablet
  • Buprenorphine and naloxone sublingual tablets
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone tablet or intramuscular injection

Additionally, non-medicinal therapies are used in combination with medicine to treat opioid use disorders. These include:

  • Inpatient treatment, where the individual stays overnight for an extended period of time within a controlled environment. This is best for those who suffer from severe addictions or co-occurring mental disorders, or those who have no support at home.
  • Outpatient treatment, where the individual visits a facility for treatment, but does not stay overnight. This is ideal for those who do not suffer from co-occurring mental disorders, those who experience less severe addiction, and those who do have a strong support system at home.
  • Therapy, which is essential to any individual seeking treatment. Different kinds of therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, or group therapy.