Drug Overdoses on the Rise

Opioid overdose deaths in US more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2015

(RxWiki News) Drug overdose deaths are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Deaths from opioids (painkillers) have been found to account for more than 60 percent of drug overdoses, the CDC reported. Furthermore, deaths related to overdoses from prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, have more than quadrupled since 1999.

The CDC noted that more than half a million deaths in the United States have been attributed to drug overdoses (prescription opioids and heroin) between 2000 and 2015. That means around 91 people in the US die every day from an opioid overdose. 

To prevent misuse and reduce the risk of overdose, make sure to ask your health care provider these three important questions. 

1) Why do I need this medication? Is this medication appropriate for me?

When starting this conversation with your health care provider, ask how long the condition causing you pain is expected to last. Ask whether the medication you have been prescribed is an opioid. If it is, ask whether there are alternatives to this medication to provide pain relief. 

2) How long should I continue taking this medication?

Speak with your doctor about how to reduce the risk of potential side effects with the medication you have been prescribed. For example, opioids can cause severe drowsiness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how this medication affects you. 

If you still have pain, do not take another dose. Instead, call your health care provider. The same goes for if you feel like you are craving more of the medication, which can happen to patients taking opioids. If it happens to you, contact your health care provider.

a) What if I have a history of addiction? 

Let your health care provider know if you or a family member have a history with substance misuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol. 

b) What about the other medications I’m taking?

Many medications can interact with opioids, and those interactions can be dangerous. Tell your health care provider about all the medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs and herbal or nutritional supplements.

If you take medication for anxiety, sleeping problems or seizures, it's extremely important that you let your health care provider know. Also, tell your health care provider if you drink alcohol. Alcohol may interact with opioids.   

c) How should I store my opioid medicine? What should I do with unused opioids?

Make sure to store your medication according to the label and in a secure and safe place. This becomes more important if you have children because you must take steps to prevent accidental ingestion. 

Never keep opioids for later use. Many pharmacies host drug take-back programs, in which you can properly dispose of these medications. If drug take-back programs are not available, ask your local pharmacist about the safest way to dispose of these medications. The goal is to prevent accidental exposure or mistakes in the home.

In addition, never share your pain medication with anyone. What is considered safe for you may lead to an overdose for someone else.

3) Should I get a prescription for naloxone?

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, which means it can save lives. Ask your health care provider if it is appropriate for you.

If you have any questions about medications used to treat pain, ask your doctor or pharmacist. It's always a good idea to play it safe.