Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. They are generally safe when taken as prescribed for short periods of time. They do, however, have the potential to be addictive if misused or if taken for extended periods. They are also extremely dangerous if taken with benzodiazepines- a class of drugs commonly used to treat anxiety - or if used with alcohol. If you are prescribed an opioid be sure to take it as prescribed and to tell your physician about any other medications – prescribed or over the counter – which you are taking. Be aware that taking opioids for long periods of time can alter the brain’s neural pathways creating the need to take more medication to achieve the same level of pain relief and setting up the potential for addiction.
It is also important that people do not share their drugs with others. Sixty-eight percent of people who abuse prescription pain killers get them from a friend or family member. While it may seem harmless to give a friend who is in pain an opioid, it can be dangerous and even deadly depending on other medications the person may be taking.
Other safe use tips:
- Keep a list of all medicines you are taking and share it with your doctor(s) or pharmacist.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist questions about your medicine and the dosing instructions.
- Learn all you can about the drug that has been prescribed for you. Know why you’re taking it and what the desired outcome should be.
- Always read and follow the instructions on your medication.
- Never take someone else’s medication.
In case of an emergency, call the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center at 800.222.1222.