Opioids: Are You Using Painkillers Safely?

prescription pills spilled overEvery 19 minutes, someone dies from an accidental opioids overdose, the CDC reports. Even more alarming? Though, Americans represent only 5% of the world’s population, they consume 80% of the world’s opioids, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians reports.

MUST READ: Prescription Painkillers For Chronic Pain Get Stricter Guidelines

So, what are opioids and why are they dangerous?

Better known as prescription painkillers such as morphine, oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), opioids are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States, according to the CDC–fueling a nationwide epidemic.

In fact, physicians prescribe them so frequently for common pain conditions like back pain, chronic headache, and fibromyalgia, that in March 2016, federal officials published national guidelines urging medical practitioners to practice better judgement, before reaching for their prescription pad.

  • “When opioids are started, clinicians should prescribe the lowest effective dosage.”
  • “When opioids are used for acute pain, clinicians should prescribe the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids and should prescribe no greater quantity than needed for the expected duration of pain severe enough to require opioids. Three days or less will often be sufficient; more than seven days will rarely be needed.”