In recent years, the prescription of opioid medication has come under close scrutiny. As revealed by the CDC and recently shared by us on Facebook, 40% of all opioid deaths involve a prescription opioid. That’s 46 people who die each die from misuse of prescription opiate drugs.
Doctors have been demonized as having caused the opioid epidemic by over-prescribing these drugs as a catch-all treatment for any complaint of pain. While it is true that opiates have been over-prescribed, and that some doctors have been derelict in their duties and even guilty of malfeasance, less emphasis has been placed on patient comportment and the responsible use of these drugs.
We believe that there is a place in our society for opiate medicines, but that their healing effects can only come through responsible prescription on the doctor side and responsible use on the patient side-- this is the best way to keep people out of drug rehab following a slip into addiction. Here are some tips to help you and your family safely and responsibly use prescribed medication.
Read Instructions Carefully
In addition to following your doctor’s instructions to the letter, you should review all literature that comes with your medication and commit to following the guidelines presented. Do not take additional doses to “catch up” on a missed dose, or take the medication before the intended time of day without consulting your physician.
Monitor Side Effects
You should note any side effects your medication appears to be causing and discuss these with your doctor right away. In some patients, opiate painkillers can have unintended effects that may harm one’s health. Your doctor should be tuned into how the medication is working for you.
Avoid Mixing Medications
Your doctor should be aware of all medications you are currently prescribed and taking including over-the-counter medicines. Benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants are particularly dangerous when used in combination with opioids, so avoid taking any new medication while taking opioids without the advice of your doctor.
Do Not Consume Alcohol
It’s tempting to advise that one “limit” their alcohol consumption while on an opioid medication regiment, but the reality is that all people are different and there is no safe amount one can drink while taking opiates. Alcohol and opiates combine to produce respiratory depression, a serious and life-threatening condition that lowers the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Simply put, alcohol and opiates do not mix.
Don’t Drive While Using Opiates
The powerful analgesic (painkilling) effects of opiates also impair judgement and reaction time. It’s not safe to drive or operate heavy machinery while using opiate medications.
Opiate prescriptions come with a very specific set of guidelines to protect your safety and that of those around you. Be diligent about following your doctor’s orders regarding opiate painkillers, and help those in your family who are prescribed to use the medicine responsibly. Taking this advice seriously could be the difference between a successful recovery from injury and a descent into addiction.