current usage of any other medications.
“Some 15 or so percent of the population suffers from an addictive disease,” Dr. Gitlow said. “They may not know they have an addictive disease. It might be a person who’s never been exposed to an opiate before, and therefore has never started down that path; but once they start down the path, they’ll be in trouble.”
He added that it’s wise to have a discussion if this is a potential issue because “the problem, of course, is that the person who has an addictive disease is the person who is somewhat less likely to raise a concern anyway, but certainly if you have a family history of it, or if you’ve shown that you’ve had difficulties with say alcohol or marijuana in the past — and you had trouble stopping that — it’s not a path you would want to go down.”
Knowing how to properly store opioids is also an informative question to ask, especially if children are present. Doctors may recommend lockboxes or new technology meant to safely store medications. This is especially important because an adult dosage may be fatal for children.
Questions on what to do with unused opioid medications are also important; don’t save them for future pain-related issues. Storing them could also cause misuse by friends or family members that may take them without permission. The FDA also provides a list of medications that can be flushed down the toilet. Accidental exposure can be avoided by taking these measures.
A discussion about a prescription for naloxone may also become useful. Naloxone can reverse the potentially deadly effects of an opioid overdose saving a patient’s life.
Like many medications, the risks and benefits should be properly discussed. “That’s what informed consent is all about,” Dr. Gitlow said. “There is virtually no time when you absolutely must take an opiate … This is something where you have a choice, and it may mean that you’re treating the pain with a different medication in a different way or perhaps you’re experiencing more pain than you otherwise would. Either way, it’s a choice.”
“Play it safe,” the FDA stated in their guide. “It doesn’t matter who is writing the prescription, ask these questions before taking opioids.”