Responsible Use of Opioids

Our society today is challenged by two serious public health problems. Many people living with severe chronic pain are suffering because their pain is not effectively treated. However, the widespread abuse of opioid prescription pain medications can lead to tragic consequences, including addiction, overdose, and death.

For many years, Purdue has funded programs and resources for improving the treatment of pain and promoting the responsible use of prescription opioids.

Responsible Use of Opioids: What Does That Mean?

In general, “responsible use of opioids” means taking action and making choices to

  • Help patients avoid the serious risks of opioid pain medicine, which can potentially lead to addiction, overdose, and death
  • Curb the diversion, misuse, and abuse of opioid pain medicine, which can potentially lead to addiction, overdose, and death

Helping patients avoid the risks of prescription opioid pain medicine

There are several ways that doctors, nurses, or physician assistants can help patients avoid the serious risks involved with prescription opioids, such as

  • Taking educational courses to stay up-to-date with current medical knowledge about opioids and chronic pain
  • Monitoring the dose of the medicine, and gradually increasing or decreasing the dose when needed
  • Having patients fill out a questionnaire that’s designed to assess whether they’re in a low-risk or high-risk category

Curbing the diversion, misuse, and abuse of opioid pain medications

  • Diversion is the unlawful channeling of a regulated pharmaceutical from legal sources to illegal use
  • Example: giving away or selling your prescription medicine
  • Medication Guides for opioid pain medications warn patients that selling or giving away their medication is against the law
  • Misuse is taking a medication in a way that was not prescribed
  • Example: taking a pill twice a day when your prescription says once a day
  • Medication Guides for opioid pain medications say: “Do not change your dose.” Take your medication “exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider.” And “Do not stop using [your medicine] without talking to your healthcare provider”
  • Abuse is taking the medicine for recreational purposes (to “get high”)

Patients and Caregivers Play Important Roles in the Responsible Use of Opioids

You can help to manage the risks of taking an opioid pain medication

  • Follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions
  • Read the Medication Guide for your prescription and do what it says
  • Sometimes healthcare providers ask a patient to sign an opioid treatment agreement that states clearly all the safety precautions they must comply with during their treatment
  • This agreement may require a patient to have a urine drug test, to fill prescriptions at the same pharmacy each time, and other rules

Curbing Diversion, Misuse, and Abuse of Prescription Opioid Drugs

You can help to combat opioid abuse by keeping your medicine stored in a safe place, hidden from other people who might take your pills.

Safeguard My Meds is an educational program, offered by Purdue, to increase awareness about safe storage and disposal of prescription medicine in an effort to reduce misuse and abuse.

Nearly 68% of people age 12 and older who abuse Rx pain medications say they get them from a friend or relative.1 To help prevent teenagers from abusing prescription drugs, Purdue offers SafeguardMyMeds.org to motivate patients to take responsibility by (1) taking medicine as prescribed and (2) safely storing and disposing of medications at home.

Medicine Cabinet Public Service Campaign

Purdue has developed the Medicine Cabinet education campaign to inform adults about the importance of monitoring, safeguarding, and properly disposing of medications in the home. Watch the 30-sec Medicine Cabinet public service announcement.

Purdue Provides Extensive Support for Combating Rx Drug Abuse

In 2011, Purdue created RxSafetyMatters.org to help curb diversion and abuse of medications while making sure they remain available for appropriate medical use. Purdue is committed to being part of the solution to prescription drug abuse. That’s why Purdue offers an array of programs focused on education, prevention, and deterrence and through partnerships with (1) healthcare professionals, (2) families and communities, and (3) law enforcement and government.

For healthcare professionals, RxSafetyMatters.org offers important information about the proper prescribing of opioid analgesics as well as other resources about caring for patients with pain while remaining vigilant against prescription drug abuse.

RxSafetyMatters.org offers a vast range of resources for families and communities, including tips for parents who feel concerned about a child’s potential drug abuse. There are also resources to help people detect and intervene when someone they know might be abusing drugs.

Visit RxSafetyMatters.org to see the multitude of partnerships that Purdue has established to fight against drug abuse.

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