Safe Opioid Use: Ask the Pharmacist

Jun 7, 2017
Express Scripts specialist pharmacist shares tips for safe use of opioid pain medication before, during and after treatment.
  • Pain


Over the recent years, addiction and abuse of pain medications has become a national epidemic. The CDC reports that over 1000 patients are treated daily in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids. Coordinated efforts by health care professionals, pharmacy providers and patients are essential in making opioid pain medication use safer.

Announced today, Express Scripts Advanced Opioid ManagementSM solution integrates advanced analytics, patient-centered education physician outreach and specialized clinical pharmacy services. Here are ways patients can practice safe medication management before, during and after treatment.

Before you take opioid pain medications:

  • Know what to expect: Discuss side effects with your doctor or pharmacist
  • Update your medication list: Make sure you current medications profile is up to date at your doctor’s office and pharmacy so that interactions between medicines can be evaluated
  • Plan with your doctor: Know when to call them if you experience side effects or do not get expected pain relief

After you start pain medications:

  • Take only as prescribed.
  • Contact your doctor if needed to discuss side effects of lack of effect.
  • Do not mix with alcohol or other medications, including over-the-counter medicine, without consulting your doctor.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery until you are aware of how medications will affect you.
  • Store medications safely, away from children and protected against theft.
  • Do not share medicines with another person. This is not only dangerous, but illegal.

When treatment finishes:

  • Dispose of medication safely: Keep out of drains and toilets to protect from water supply contamination
  • Use local drug disposal programs: Often coordinated through local government, police or fire departments
  • If drug disposal program not available, there are a number of ways to safely dispose of your unwanted medications. For example, take a plastic zippered bag and place the unwanted medication, a few tablespoons of water and an undesirable item like kitty litter or coffee grounds inside the bag and zip closed. Shake the ingredients to mix and place in regular trash.
  • Contact an Express Scripts pharmacist: Express Scripts will ship deactivation device disposal bag for patients with leftover medication who are enrolled in the Advanced Opioid Management solution.

Opiate medications can be an important part in treating pain. As with any medications, there are risks and benefits. Following these tips can help keep your treatment with opioid pain medications safe, while ensuring you get the pain relief you need.

Author Bio

Phil Combs
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