The opioid epidemic continues to get worse in many communities throughout the United States. More families are now being affected by addiction, overdose, and death from narcotics than ever before. Overdose is now the main cause of death for Americans aged less than 50 years. 1 in 5 deaths in young adults is related to opioids. North Carolina has been affected more than many states in the US.

Patients and physicians should be educated about the risks and benefits of opioid medications, and only use these medications when necessary. The North Carolina governor Roy Cooper signed the STOP act in 2017 in an attempt to reduce the misuse and abuse of opioids prescribed by physicians. This law limits the number of opioid medications which can be prescribed.

Opioids are common painkilling medications, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, etc.

Below is patient information I have written for patients who need a pain pill prescription after an injury or surgery:

Important Information about Painkillers

You are being prescribed an opioid pain medication to help with severe pain. Use the medication sparingly as needed to reduce your pain. The goal is not to be pain-free, but to make the pain more tolerable.  If you are able to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), alternate the prescription pain medication with over-the-counter Ibuprofen or Naproxen. This will allow you to take less opioid medication. Also, elevate the hand to reduce swelling and consider applying ice to the affected area for 15 minutes at a time, several times per day.

Opioid medication is powerful and has the risk of overdose, abuse, and addiction. Only use the medication as directed by your physician and keep the pills in a safe place. When you no longer need the medication, please dispose of the pills properly as directed below. Allowing someone else to use your opioid prescription is illegal.

Also, possible side effects from opioid medications are over-sedation, itching, nausea/vomiting, and constipation. Do not drive a vehicle or operate machinery while taking the pain medications. Drink plenty of fluids and consider a stool softener to prevent constipation.

If the pain you are experiencing is not severe, do not take the opioid pills and only take over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

Disposing of unused pain medications:

(1) Follow pharmacist instructions on the bottle if available, or

(2) Call 1-800-882-9539 for a DEA authorized collection site in your area, or

(3) If no collection site is available in your area, mix the pills with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds, kitty litter, or dirt. Place this mixture in a sealed plastic bag. Place the bag in the household garbage.