6 tips to keep you and your family safe while taking opioids

Prescription opioids may be helpful for those recovering from surgery, serious injury, or, in some cases, in the treatment of chronic pain. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 8 percent from 2018 to 2019 and has quadrupled since 1999, with data projecting those numbers for 2020 to increase even further.

Over 70 percent of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved an opioid.

In addition, a recent study showed that most teenagers who have experimented with opioids, get them from their parent’s medicine cabinet.

“Keeping opioid medication in a secure location or even in a lock box is especially important if you have children or even grandchildren in your house,” says Dr. Mark Butterly, vice chair of pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Experts shared the following six key tips for taking opioids to keep yourself and family members safe:

1. Always take medication as prescribed and only for the reason it was prescribed.
2. Keep opioid medication in a safe place.
3. Never share your medications with anyone, including family members.
4. Do not drink alcohol while taking opioid medication. Do not operate heavy machinery, including driving a car.
5. After a few days, if you have not taken any of the pain medication, dispose of the leftover medication properly. (Visit dea.gov for a drop off location.)
6. Your physician may give you a prescription for Narcan® or naloxone. Ensure that you fill this prescription and have on hand. Narcan® (naloxone HCI) nasal spray can reverse an opioid overdose and saves lives. Narcan is covered by most insurance carriers for little to no co-pay. It can even be used if your pet accidentally gets into your opioid medication.

Dr. Doug Slakey, chief of surgical services at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, shared four signs of opioid misuse to look out for in family members and yourself:

1. Taking more than prescribed
2. Taking for other pain reasons
3. Taking to sleep
4. Taking to feel high

Dr. Michael McNett, medical director of non-interventional pain services at Advocate Aurora Health, says it’s important to look for warning signs of opioid addiction.

“A few signs to look for include: your body craving medication, taking more than prescribed, and continuing to take the medication even when it is negatively affecting your relationships or job,” Dr. McNett adds.

For those that have been prescribed opioids for managing chronic pain or those who have been prescribed opioids for over two weeks, even for those who have been taking opioids for months and even years (as medicine is constantly changing), the below video provides important information and recommendations for you.

Our experts share more tips in the video to keep everyone safe (including your family pets), along with the need for compliance and signs of opioid misuse.

And the video below is recommended for you (or a loved one) who has been prescribed opioids to help manage pain after an injury or surgery. Our experts discuss the benefits and risks associated with taking opioids, as well as tips to keep everyone safe.

If you feel that you or a loved one are experiencing the warning signs of addiction, please talk to a clinician as there are ways to treat opioid addiction, which can be a complication from taking opioids even as prescribed for some patients. Another valuable resource is to call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), which is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

“At Advocate Aurora Health, we are here to keep you safe and help you live well,” Dr. Diana Bottari, pain management specialist and lead physician in opioid mitigation at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn said.

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