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You're prescribed an opioid. Now what?

Stay informed to stay safe

Every day, 91 people in the United States die from a prescription opioid overdose and many more become addicted. It's statistics like this that make opioid abuse one of America's foremost health crises, taking lives and negatively impacting communities.

While opioids can be helpful to treat certain kinds of acute and chronic pain, they can act on your brain in powerful, addictive and potentially dangerous ways. 

If you're prescribed an opioid, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine or morphine, consider these questions to ask your doctor or your pharmacist before popping the pill. 

Questions to ask if you're prescribed an opioid

Is this type of medication right for me?

There may be ways to ease your pain without an opioid prescription. Talk to your doctor about possibly taking prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These won't lead to dependence or addiction. Just keep in mind, they are more potent and may come with more side effects than over-the-counter NSAIDs, like aspirin and ibuprofen.

You should also make sure your doctor knows about other medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking, especially those prescribed to treat anxiety, sleeping problems, or seizures. Even medicines you take occasionally could interact with the opioid pain medication.

How long should I take this medication?

Find out when and how to stop using, or taper off, your opioid prescription. You may also consider asking for the lowest dose and the smallest quantity possible.

To reduce any side effects from the medication, be sure to take it exactly as prescribed by your health care provider. If you're still feeling pain, call your doctor, don't take an extra dose.

How should I store it?

If you have kids at home, you might want to consider a lockbox for your medications. It's important to remember that your prescription is for you. What's safe for you might lead to misuse for someone else.

If you have unused medicine, don't keep it around your house. There are many ways you can safely dispose of your opioid medication, like participating in a Drug Takeback Day.

Do I need naloxone if I am taking an opioid?

Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you have a history of overdose or substance abuse, or you're on higher opioid dosages, you may want to consider getting a naloxone prescription and having it on hand. Talk to your doctor to find out if this is something you should consider.

Wellmark data shows progress toward preventing inappropriate prescription opioid use

A new report External Site by the Blue Cross® Blue Shield® Association (BCBSA) shows 3 in 1,000 of its Iowa members were diagnosed with an opioid-use disorder last year compared to 5.9 in 1,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield members nationally. This is the fourth lowest rate in the nation.

In South Dakota, 2.2 in 1,000 members were diagnosed with an opioid-use disorder, making it the lowest rate in the nation.

BCBSA to launch Blue Distinction® Centers for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery

To find reliable support for Americans suffering from an opioid use disorder, BCBSA will launch Blue Distinction Centers for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery to ensure members have access to the best clinical thinking and evidenced-based approaches in dealing with the long-term issues associated with opioid-use disorder. In addition, BCBSA is establishing a national hotline to connect those in need with treatment centers. The hotline will be available to anyone.

The Blue Distinction Centers for Substance Use Treatment and Recovery and the national hotline will be operational by January 2020.

About Blue Distinction Centers

Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for providers located in its own service area; for details, contact your Local Blue Plan. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers’ need for affordable healthcare. Each provider’s cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Providers in CA, ID, NY, PA, and WA may lie in two Local Blue Plans’ areas, resulting in two evaluations for cost of care; and their own Local Blue Plans decide whether one or both cost of care evaluation(s) must meet BDC+ national criteria. National criteria for BDC and BDC+ are displayed on Individual outcomes may vary. For details on a provider’s in-network status or your own policy’s coverage, contact your Local Blue Plan and ask your provider before making an appointment. Neither Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association nor any Blue Plans are responsible for non-covered charges or other losses or damages resulting from Blue Distinction or other provider finder information or care received from Blue Distinction or other providers.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.