Skip to main content

What you need to know about opioids

Opioids are strong prescription medications that are used to manage severe pain. Ask your healthcare provider about the risks associated with opioid medications. For additional information, please view and/or print the Opioid Patient Information Guide below:

Opioid Patient Information Guide

What are the serious risks of using opioids?

Opioid overdose - Too much opioid medicine in your body can cause your breathing to stop, which could lead to death. This risk is greater for people taking other medications that make you feel sleepy or for people who have sleep apnea. If prescribed for you, do not share opioid medications with anyone else. Your healthcare provider selected the opioid and the dose specifically for you. A dose that is okay for you could cause an overdose for someone else; plus, it's against the law.

Addiction - You can become addicted to opioid medications. When you crave drugs/medications (like opioid pain medications) because they make you feel good in some way, you could have an addiction. Once addicted, you may keep taking the drug/medication even though you know it isn't a good idea and bad things are happening to you. Addiction is a brain disease that may require ongoing treatment. You can become addicted to opioids even though you take them exactly as prescribed, especially if taken for a long time. If you think you might be addicted, talk to your healthcare provider right away. If you take an opioid medication for more than a few days, your body can become physically "dependent."

Taking opioid pain medications safely

If prescribed opioid pain medications, tell your healthcare provider about all of the other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter medicines.

Read the Medication Guide that comes with your prescription. Take your medications exactly as prescribed.

Do not cut, break, chew, crush, or dissolve your opioid medicine. If you cannot swallow your medicine whole, talk to your healthcare provider.

Avoid using alcohol or taking other medications with opioids unless specifically prescribed by your healthcare provider. These include sleep medications, muscle relaxants, and another other opioid medications.

Do not share your opioid medications, and store the medication in safe place where it cannot be reached by children nor taken (or stolen) by family members or visitors. Ideally, use a lock box and keep track of how much medication you have left.

Additional information:

Subscribe to This Week in Health to get the latest health news delivered to your inbox.