Balancing Opioid Use and Abuse

Balancing Opioid Use and Abuse

Lee esto en EspañolOn Oct. 26, 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a national “public health emergency.” Since the alarm was sounded, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports opioid addiction, overdose and deaths are still on the rise in the United States. And seniors aren’t immune.

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) is helping reduce the risks with new Medicare Part D prescription safety policies and alerts. They are also supporting addiction treatment programs and opioid alternatives.  Just as important, the CMS is actively educating both providers and patients on the dangers of opioids.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are drugs that ease pain. Simply put, they cut the strength of pain signals reaching the brain to curb feelings. Doctors give them to treat pain linked to injury, dental work and surgery.

Types of opioid painkillers include:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Opioids are useful tools to take care of pain when taken the right way. When misused, though, they can lead to dependence, which can then lead to overdose or even accidental death.

Opioids should only be prescribed after other choices are weighed. Less addictive medications, exercise and massage or physical therapy may be less risky ways to handle pain.  

How Can You Tell if You Have a Problem?

Here are a few common signs:

  • You take your pain meds in larger amounts
  • You take those meds more often
  • You crave your next dose, even if you don't really need it
  • You get your pills from more than one doctor
  • You've been taking the pills for a long time
  • You sleep too much
  • You have bad mood swings

If you think that you've become reliant on opioids, talk with your doctor. It’s a common issue, so don't feel embarrassed. It is a complex link leaving site icon between you and your meds. You can find help. Seeing that there might be a problem is the first step.

Sources: Medicare Going in Right Direction on Opioid Epidemic, leaving site icon Kaiser Health News, 2019; Ongoing Emergencies and Disasters: Opioid Crisis, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, leaving site icon 2020; CMS Roadmap: Strategy to Fight the Opioid Crisis, leaving site icon Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2020; Understanding Drug Use and Addiction, leaving site icon National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018.
Important Information 

Originally published 12/17/2018; Revised 2021