The Opioid Epidemic Is Real

crying womanMake Sure You Don’t Get Addicted

Opioids are often prescribed to reduce pain immediately following surgery or injury. They are also used to minimize pain for people with terminal illnesses like cancer.

Opioids are a highly addictive type of drug that includes hydrocodone (Vicodin®), oxycodone (Oxycontin®), oxymorphone (Opana®), methadone, morphine, fentanyl and codeine. (The illegal narcotic, heroin, is also an opioid.)

The opioid problem exists due to a steady increase in opioid prescriptions to treat ongoing chronic pain, such as back pain and arthritis, even though the risk of addiction—without treating the underlying condition—is high.

As a result, two million Americans are now addicted to prescription opioids … and every day in the U.S., 1,000 emergency room visits and 40 deaths are due to opioid prescription overdoses.


You can get addicted to opioids with just one prescription … and once you’re hooked, it can be very difficult to stop. If your doctor recommends an opioid, ask these questions:

  • “What medical alternatives might be effective in my situation that I could try first?” Surgery, injections, or medications for depression or seizures could be options.
  • “Could I try a prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory instead of an opioid?”
  • “Are there complementary health approaches that are effective for managing my type of chronic pain?” (See list below.)
  • “What is my risk for developing an addiction?” Your risk is higher if you have a history of drug misuse, depression or anxiety, among other things.
  • “How will you help me keep from becoming addicted?” Ask for regular visits to monitor your pain level and response to the medication, as well as a plan to eventually end opioid treatment.
  • “What do I need to know about side effects before I start taking an opioid?” Constipation, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting are common.
  • “Are there interactions I need to be aware of?” Combining opioids with alcohol, antidepressants, antihistamines or sleeping pills can be dangerous, even deadly.


Many people are getting relief from chronic pain through non-medical or complementary health approaches, like these:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Meditation
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Naturopathic care

Your Health Plan covers physical therapy and may cover chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback therapy and naturopathic care. Please refer to your Benefit Booklet for details.

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