Chronic pain affects more than just the body, it can be devastating to the mind and spirit, as well as making it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with others. Fortunately, experienced providers can help you manage the symptoms of chronic pain, and manage the side effects of opioid therapy if they are included in your treatment plan.

Opioids are highly regulated and your provider may require Consent/Controlled Substance Agreement and more frequent visits to assess your response to these medications.

What is Opioid Therapy?

Opioid medications (sometimes just called “opioids” or “pain pills”) are strong medications that can provide relief from pain and allow you to return to a more normal life. Opioids reduce pain by altering how your brain processes pain signals and sounds the pain alarm. 

Opioid therapy can also be delivered as a skin patch, with your skin absorbing the medication and should be used to improve your function. If your function declines while taking opioids, your provider may suggest another treatment option, as the associated risks of opioids may outweigh the benefit.

Opioid Precautions

Opioid medications can be dangerous when not used correctly, potentially causing problems with your respiratory systems, awareness, judgment and even death if not used according your providers direction.

To reduce risks, heed your physician’s advice and follow a few precautions when using opioids:

  • Refrain from driving or using machinery while taking opioid medication until you know how it affects you.
  • Avoid alcohol, anti-anxiety or sleep medication that may increase your risk.
  • While uncommon, some may develop an addiction to opioid therapy; to eliminate this risk, talk to your doctor about how to gradually decrease your dosage when you no longer need opioids.
  • Tell those you live with that you’re starting a medication so that they can assist you by keeping an eye on your breathing, especially while you sleep. Risks of respiratory depression increase with higher opioid dosage. Talk to your provider about having a rescue kit with Naloxone available if there should be a need. Naloxone can reverse the effects of respiratory depression caused by opioids.
  • Your opioids should be taken only by you, to keep others from abusing them keep them out of reach, in a lockbox, and dispose of them when you no longer take them. Intermountain Pharmacies have disposal containers at most pharmacies.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, also called Narcan or Evzio, is a drug that is given to stop or reverse an overdose caused by prescription opioid medicines (opioids) or heroin. Naloxone is given by a caregiver or bystander to prevent death from opioid overdose. It can be injected into a muscle or sprayed into the nose. As soon as you get naloxone, you need to:

  • Read the instructions from the pharmacist so you know how to give it.
  • Share the instructions with other caregivers and make sure they know how to give it.
  • Show them where you keep it.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.