Medications are an important part of pain management, but many medications for chronic pain, including opioids and other medications, can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. If you are prescribed medications for your pain, it is your responsibility to keep medications safe.
Public health concerns regarding opioid use and opioid-related deaths in the United States are front and center in just about every news media there is, and almost everyone has been touched by it. The statistics are horrifying. Just in Massachusetts, opioid deaths have increased from 379 in 2000 to an estimated 2,107 in 20171. In 2014, there were over 30,000 opioid-related visits to Massachusetts emergency rooms2 (450 per 100,000 residents). Although deaths from heroin and illicit fentanyl are now far more common than deaths from prescription opioids, up to 86% of heroin users in 2009 started with prescription opioids3,4, often from family members or friends.
Don’t add to the statistics. Keep your medications locked up, without exception. Even if you think your medications are well-hidden, or you think nobody comes into your house, or you think nobody you know would take your medications. It’s pretty terrible to find out the hard way that you were wrong, and there is no downside to protecting yourself. Know where all of your medications are at all times. Don’t keep a few tablets in the car or your purse “for emergencies.” Get rid of medications you don’t take. One of our past blog posts, “Spring Cleaning,” details how to dispose of medication you no longer use. This applies to all medications, since many types of medications are abused, not just opioids.
Narcan (naloxone) is a medication used to reverse opioid overdose, and has saved thousands of lives in Massachusetts alone5. The providers at North Shore Pain Management are now giving a prescription for naloxone to all patients who are prescribed opioids. It’s not that we think all of our patients are going to overdose. We think of it more like an umbrella – it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Overdoses can happen accidentally, even when patients are taking their medications as prescribed. Opioid-related deaths happen in young children and pets when they find a pill on the floor and pop it in their mouths, or in kids who are mimicking adults. If you are prescribed opioids, you should also have naloxone, and know how and when to use it. Even if you don’t have a prescription, you can still get naloxone, because all pharmacies in Massachusetts have a standing order6 and are required to carry and dispense naloxone to any Massachusetts resident who requests it.
Benzodiazepines are medications often used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Pain, anxiety, and insomnia often go hand-in-hand, but unfortunately benzodiazepines and opioids do not play nicely together. The risk of accidental death increases significantly when benzodiazepines and opioids are combined. Talk to your health care providers about the risks if you are prescribed both types of medications, and find out if there is a less dangerous way to control your symptoms. If you are prescribed benzodiazepines, keep them locked up and safe, the same way you would for opioids and other pain medications.
At North Shore Pain Management, we’ll work with you to make 2018 happy and safe.
- Data Brief: Opioid1 – Related Overdose Deaths Among Massachusetts Residents
- Mass. had highest rate of opioid-related ER visits
- The Massachusetts Opioid Epidemic
- Prescription Opioids and Heroin
- Naloxone for Opioid Overdose: Life-Saving Science
- Naloxone Dispensing via Standing Order
At North Shore Pain Management we provide advanced, evidence based, multidisciplinary and cost effective pain management. Our goal is to improve your ability to return to the activities you have been missing as well as provide a meaningful reduction in pain.