Lowering the Risk of Opioid Misuse

Lowering the Risk of Opioid Misuse

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The opioid crisis was declared a national “public health emergency” back in 2017. Since the alarm was sounded, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says opioid addiction, overdose and deaths are still on the rise in the U.S. Even seniors aren’t immune.

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) is helping cut the risks with new Medicare Part D prescription safety rules and alerts. They’re also supporting addiction treatment programs and opioid choices. Just as vital, the CMS is actively educating both doctors and patients on the dangers of opioids.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are drugs that ease pain. Simply put, they cut the strength of pain signals reaching the brain to curb pain. Doctors give them to treat pain linked to injury, dental work and surgery.

Types of opioid painkillers include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Opioids are helpful tools that relieve pain when taken the right way. When misused, though, they can lead to dependence – which can then lead to overdose or even accidental death.

Opioids should only be prescribed after other choices are weighed. Less addictive drugs, exercise and massage or physical therapy may be less risky ways to handle pain.

How Can You Tell if You Have a Problem?

There are a few common tell-tale signs. There may be a problem if you:

  • Take more pain meds than prescribed
  • Take these meds more often than told
  • Crave your next dose, even if you don't really need it
  • Get pills from more than one doctor
  • Have been taking the pills for a long time
  • Sleep too much
  • Experience bad mood swings

If you think that you rely too much on opioids, talk with your doctor. It’s a common issue, so don't feel embarrassed. There is a complex link leaving site icon between you and your meds. You can find help. Seeing you may have a problem is the first step.

Sources: Combating the Opioid Epidemic, leaving site icon U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, 2023; Ongoing Emergencies and Disasters: Opioid Crisisleaving site icon Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2022; CMS Roadmap: Strategy to Fight the Opioid Crisis, leaving site icon Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2020; Understanding Drug Use and Addiction,  leaving site icon National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018
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Originally published 12/17/2018; Revised 2021, 2023