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Prescription opioids are medications that relieve pain. They are intended to treat moderate to severe pain and are often prescribed after surgery, an injury, or for health conditions like cancer.
Prescription medications are not the only form of opioids.
- Drugs like heroin, illicitly-made fentanyl and drugs like it called fentanyl analogs, are also present in Oregon, and contribute to the opioid crisis.
- This includes drugs sold on the street that may look like pharmaceutical drugs, but contain powerful illicit opioids.
People are more likely to die from illicit fentanyl overdose, because it is many times more potent than other opioids and may require additional naloxone to reverse overdoses compared to other opioids. Illicit opioids like fentanyl are sold through illicit drug markets, and buyers or users may not even know the drug they’re buying contains fentanyl. Illicitly made fentanyl and analogs have resulted in a dramatic increase in deaths in the U.S.
If your doctor prescribes you opioid pain medication
- Talk to your doctor about the benefits, risks and limitations of prescription pain medications, and other options to manage your pain. Be sure to tell your doctor about other medications you are taking.
- Let your doctor know if you have a history of substance use disorder or a mental health disorder.
- Use the smallest amount of medication for the fewest number of days.
- Do not drive or operate machinery while taking opioids for pain.
- Store prescription pain medications in a SAFE, SECURE place, out of reach of others. Be aware of how much medication you have, and monitor the quantity.
- Use prescription pain medications only as instructed by your doctor. To help prevent misuse, do not sell or share your medication. Never use another person's prescription pain medication.
- Make a plan with your doctor for when and how to stop, if a choice is made to use prescription pain medications.
- Dispose of unused medication safely.
Heal Safely campaign
Planning ahead can help you find better ways to heal - without the risk of prescription opioids. Heal Safely is a campaign to empower people to heal safely after injury or surgery. We believe everyone deserves safe, effective options that will help them rest, recover and get back to daily life.
HealSafely.org En español: Comomanejareldolor.org
How to manage your pain safely and effectively (CDC website)
Disposing of unused medication
Make sure any unused medication is properly disposed of once it is no longer needed.
Opioid use disorder
People who take opioids, even for short term acute pain management, can develop an opioid use disorder. Using opioid pain medication can lead to a lifelong struggle with misuse and dependency that impacts a person's relationships, employment, finances, family and community.
Getting help for opioid use disorder
Opioid use disorder can be successfully treated. If you or a loved one need help to stop using opioids, talk to your health care provider or view our list of resources for getting help.
Consider getting trained to use Naloxone
Naloxone is a medication that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose. Oregon law allows lay people to carry and use naloxone on others. Learn more about naloxone.
What happens during an overdose
When someone takes too much prescription pain medication:
- Pupils become very small, sometimes called "pinpoint" pupils
- The person may throw up, or make snoring, gurgling or choking sounds
- Breathing gets very slow or stops
- The person may turn pale, blue or gray, especially the lips or fingernails
- The person may become unconscious, become limp or not respond to yelling or other stimulation
IF YOU SEE THESE SIGNS: The most important thing is to act right away. CALL 911.
If you call police or 911 to get help for someone having a drug overdose, Oregon law protects you from being arrested or prosecuted for drug-related charges or parole/probation violations based on information provided to emergency responders. Read the law (pdf).
Tame the Beast: It's time to rethink persistent pain (5:00)
Lock it up: Medicine safety in your home (0:58)