Talk to Your Doctor About Managing Your Pain
You and your doctor both play a role in finding the best way to manage your pain.
Doctors prescribe opioids – like hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine – to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioids are often prescribed following a surgery or injury or for certain health conditions. These medications carry serious risks of addiction and overdose, especially with prolonged use.
Some patients may experience negative side effects like the ones listed below, even when they take their opioid medication as directed:
- Tolerance—meaning you might need to take more of a medication for the same pain relief
- Physical dependence—meaning you have symptoms of withdrawal when a medication is stopped
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
- Sleepiness and dizziness
- Itching and sweating
While opioids can be an important part of treatment, they also come with serious risks. That is why it is important to work with your doctor to make sure you are getting the safest, most effective care. A simple conversation with your doctor can help prevent opioid addiction and overdose.
Opioids can be dangerous, and anyone can become addicted. Studies have shown that even just three days of opioid treatment can increase the likelihood of chronic opioid use.1 It only takes a little to lose a lot. Risks include misuse, abuse, opioid use disorder (addiction), and overdose.
Opioids affect the part of the brain that controls breathing. If you take a dosage that is too high, it can slow your breathing and cause death.
Combining opioids with alcohol or certain other drugs – like benzodiazepines (Xanax or Valium), sleep aids, muscle relaxants, hypnotics (Ambien or Lunesta), and other prescription opioids – increases your risk of overdose and death.2
You can help prevent prescription opioid misuse by first starting a conversation with your doctor. Protect yourself, loved ones, and others by talking about your questions and concerns regarding opioid medications.
- Ask about the risks and benefits of prescription opioids, so you and your doctor can together decide what’s best.
- Ask your doctor about non-opioid options for pain relief.
- Let your doctor know about any other medications you take.
Facts about Opioid Misuse & Overdose
- 10 million Americans (age 12+) reported misusing opioids in 2018.3
- Most of the opioid misuse from the past year is from prescription opioids, specifically 9.9 million people.3
Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline:
See SAMHSA’s Opioid Treatment Program Directory and FindTreatment.gov for quality treatment centers in your state.
- Do not share medication with others. Only take prescription medication that is prescribed to you.
- Take medication as directed by your doctor. Never take opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed.
- Keep medicines in a safe and secure place. It’s best to store opioids in a place that is locked, like a keyed medicine cabinet or drawer, to keep them secure from children, family, friends, and visitors.
- Properly discard expired or unused prescription opioids. Remove them from your home as soon as possible to reduce the chances of misuse. To get rid of prescription opioids and other medications safely:
- Find a medicine take-back option near you: TakeBackDay.DEA.gov;
- Check with your pharmacist to see if you can return unused medication to the pharmacy.
- Shah A, Hayes CJ, Martin BC. Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use — United States, 2006–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:265–269.
- Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA Warns about Serious Risks and Death When Combining Opioid Pain or Cough Medicines with Benzodiazepines; Requires Its Strongest Warning: FDA. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 2017.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.