Opioid Addiction is a Public Health Crisis
Diane Tokach, R. Ph., Capital BlueCross | 04.17.17
Opioid addiction has become a public health crisis, not just in Pennsylvania, but around the country. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that opioid-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999, with nearly 16,000 Americans dying from overdoses each year.
Opioid addiction is not just a "street drug addict" issue - it impacts people from all walks of life, including everyday citizens, the wealthy and celebrities. It is a serious, life-threatening, chronic illness that needs to be treated aggressively and effectively, and ultimately prevented.
If you are prescribed opioids for pain, make sure you follow the advice of your doctor.
You can safely use opioids to control pain, but you should follow these guidelines:
- Use them only as directed and never use more than or more often than prescribed.
- Certain medications should be avoided when taking opioids unless your doctor is aware, including:
- Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax® and Valium)
- Muscle relaxants (such as Soma® or Flexeril®)
- Sleep medications (such as Ambien® or Lunesta®)
- Other prescription pain medications
- Talk to your doctor about developing a plan to manage your pain that includes non-opioid alternatives.
- Be sure to have regular follow-up visits with your doctor and discuss any and all side effects or concerns.
- Be sure to store opioid pain relievers in a safe place and out of reach of others.
- Do not share your prescription medications with others.
- Find a drug take-back program to properly dispose of unused prescription opioids.
Talk to your doctor about ways to manage your pain that don't involve prescription opioids. The following alternatives may work for you and have fewer risks and side effects:
- Over the counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Physical therapy and exercise
- Medications used for depression or seizures have been effective for treating some types of pain
Remember, your doctor is a partner in your pain treatment plan. It's important to talk about any and all side effects and concerns to make sure you're getting the safest and most effective care.
Up to 1 in 4 people receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting is struggling with addiction. Capital BlueCross encourages anyone who is dealing with addiction, or has a loved one battling addiction, to seek help from a health care professional.
Diane has over 30 years of experience providing medication management to the geriatric population. Prior to joining Capital Blue Cross, Diane worked as a consultant pharmacist to long term care facilities, performing monthly medication regimen review for the facility residents. Through interaction with nursing staff and physicians she was able to reduce the use of high risk medications in the elderly population, and decrease medication doses for agents with greater risk of adverse events. Diane is a member of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy and is certified in Medication Therapy Management. Photo by Capital BlueCross