How Can I Use Prescription Opioids Safely?
Sometimes prescription opioids are prescribed for a few days after a serious injury or surgery. Other times, Service members live with chronic pain and may require ongoing opioid treatment and monitoring. Even though prescription opioids can be helpful, it is important to know how to use them safely.
What’s the deal with prescription opioids?
Prescription opioids are strong pain-relieving drugs, such as oxycodone, that are prescribed by your health care provider. Other opioids, such as heroin, are illicit drugs and are illegal for everyone to use, including Service members.
Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become dependent. This is even more true for those who need long-term pain relief treatment. If that’s the case, your health care provider may only allow one person on your medical team to prescribe you opioids. They might also refer you to a pain management clinic to learn about other ways to manage pain.
What if I misuse my prescription opioid?
Prescription opioid misuse means using prescription opioids without following your health care provider’s directions (such as taking more at a time or more frequently than prescribed), taking someone else’s prescription opioid or using medication for any reason other than what it was prescribed for. Misuse can negatively impact your health, relationships and career. Also, when you misuse prescription opioids, the risk of overdose or addiction increases.
Tips for Safe Opioid Use
If you are prescribed opioids, make sure you use them correctly by doing the following:
- Ask your health care provider questions before use [PDF 304KB]. Make sure you understand how and when to take your prescription opioids. For example, should you take them with food or on an empty stomach? How many hours between doses? Should I take them with water?
- Take prescription opioids exactly as your health care provider tells you. It’s a good idea to read the instructions on the bottle every time you take a dose just to be safe.
- Know the possible side effects and when to seek emergency care. Some prescription opioids may cause side effects such as sleepiness, confusion or dizziness. If they do, avoid driving or using other machinery and consider how use may impact your job.
- Never mix prescription opioids.
- Dispose of extra prescription opioids safely. Follow the instructions on the bottle, talk with your pharmacy and find safe ways to dispose [PDF 134KB] of them.
If your prescription opioids are not helping with your pain or you want to learn more about non-drug pain management options [PDF 626KB], talk with your health care provider.