What to Know About Opioid Safety

It's critical to understand safe opioid usage if you or someone you know uses them. Safety can lessen the chance of unintentional overdoses, opioid intoxication, and other negative consequences.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that around 2.7 million people suffered from an opioid use disorder in 2020 and that opioids were implicated in over 75% of the 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021.

Although using opioids recreationally isn't safe, there are steps you may take to lower the dangers as much as you can. The belief that any positive change is worthwhile striving for, including the safer use of medicines, is known as "harm reduction."

To prevent hurting yourself or other people, it's crucial to understand how to use opioids safely even if you have a prescription for them.

Use opioid medication only as prescribed

It's crucial to adhere to the recommended guidelines if you consume opioids provided by prescription. You should refrain from taking it more frequently than recommended or overdosing on the specified amount.

See your physician or other healthcare provider who prescribed the opioid if you are not feeling better after taking it at your regular dosage. You may be starting to acquire an opioid tolerance, which is when the medicine stops having the desired impact.

Never raise your dosage without the prescribing physician's approval.

Prevent medication interactions with other drugs or substances

The use of opioids in combination with other drugs can be harmful. "Interaction" refers to a potentially hazardous pharmacological combination.

Opioids may combine with:
  • certain antidepressants
  • certain HIV medications
  • muscle relaxants
  • sleep medications
  • alcohol
  • antiseizure medications
  • benzodiazepines (Ativan, Xanax, or Valium)
  • certain antibiotics and antifungal medications
Each variety of opioids has unique interactions of its own. When combined with another opioid, something that could be safe to consume alone could become harmful.

If a doctor has not cleared you to stop taking your prescription medicine suddenly, don't.

See a healthcare provider as soon as possible to find out if it's okay for you to take opioids together with your existing medicine if you're unsure.

Store and dispose of opioid medications correctly

Considering the prevalence of opioid abuse, it's critical to use opioids responsibly and to take preventative measures to stop others from abusing your prescription.

Even if someone has a prescription for an opioid medication of their own, don't sell or share them.

To keep people from getting access to prescription opioids, try to keep them stored in a secure location. Keep them out of the reach of adults who might abuse them as well as children, particularly if they have a history of substance abuse.

Safe storage just indicates that you are taking care of your loved ones to keep them safe, not that you don't trust them.

When your treatment is concluding, properly dispose of any leftover opioids. To accomplish this, you can:
  • transporting them to a hospital or pharmacy to be disposed of
  • locating the drug take-back programme in your area
  • if there are no other options, flushing your prescription down the toilet by the FDA's prescribed flush list

Medication should never be thrown in the trash.

Learn how to use naloxone (Narcan) and keep it available

Learning how to administer naloxone is a smart idea, particularly if you or a loved one uses over-the-counter medications. Opioids may be covertly added to nonprescription medications without your knowing.

When someone overdoses on opioids or opiates, they can be given naloxone, also referred to by the brand name "Narcan." Narcan has the potential to save lives in overdose situations.

Naloxone nasal spray is now available for purchase over-the-counter. It's a wonderful idea to make it accessible and to inform people of its location.

Test over-the-counter opioid drugs and substances before using them.

It's crucial to test opiates and opioids before using them if you haven't been given them. It's possible for even seeming-legit medicines to include extra substances.

Opioids can be tested as follows before use:
  • Purchase tests from DanceSafe or your neighbourhood drugstore.
  • Go to a safe consumption location (also referred to as an injection site or supervised "consumption site").
  • Go to a programme that exchanges needles.
It's usually advisable to err on the side of caution and have any unprescribed medication, especially opioids, tested for impurities.

Steer clear of using opioid drugs and substances by yourself, especially at larger doses or if they are new to you.

utilising an unfamiliar medicine or a higher-than-usual dosage of an opioid can make utilising them riskier. This is especially the case when using opioids without a prescription.

It is therefore advisable to refrain from utilising opioids alone. Locate a safe place to consume in your neighbourhood, or have a loved one you can trust to watch you. Have naloxone available, and make sure they understand how to use it and where to find the assistance they need.

Protect if you do consume opioids by yourself. These precautions could be as simple as calling the Never Use Alone hotline or having a trusted person drop by or call at a prearranged time.

Recognize symptoms of opioid misuse and opioid use disorder

The first step in receiving treatment can be learning to recognise the telltale signs and symptoms of opioid misuse and opioid use disorder in both yourself and other people.

The following are signs of opioid abuse and addiction:
  • unwillingness to cut back on the quantity of opioids taken
  • alterations in appetite or sleep
  • cravings for the drug
  • challenges at work or school resulting from your usage of opioids
  • adverse social effects as a result of your opiate use
  • withdrawal signs after quitting opioid use
  • more prescription opioids than normal are required to have the same result (building up a tolerance).
  • use of the drug for a purpose for which it is not prescribed (e.g. when you are not in pain)
  • usage of opioids despite declining physical or mental health
In general, the following are signs of a substance use disorder:
  • aggression
  • apathy
  • bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • alterations in speech, such as slurred words or fast-talking
  • alterations in eating habits and weight
  • mood swings
  • disregard for one's job, relationships, and interests
  • greater concealment of activities and drug use
  • inexplicable illnesses or injuries
You should know that there are treatments available if you believe that you or a loved one suffers from a substance use issue. You can recover from opioid abuse and feel better.

Learn more and find support

Knowing the dangers associated with using opioids can only be advantageous to you.

The following links provide additional information regarding harm reduction and responsible use:
  • how to administer treatment for an unintentional opioid overdose
  • how to handle an overdose without police involvement
  • the beginner’s guide to harm reduction
The following sources can provide you with assistance:
  • Call 800-662-HELP (4357), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 24/7, free, and confidential helpline.
  • An online treatment locator is also available from SAMHSA.
  • Participate in or go to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon, or Alateen.


Is ibuprofen an opioid?

NOT opioids.

What is the strongest painkiller?


What are opioids used for in the ICU?

To alleviate pain and discomfort

Why are opioids addictive?

They trigger powerful reward centres in your brain.

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