It has been 7 weeks since Prince passed away from an unintentional opioid overdose. Prince suffered from chronic pain after a hip surgery in 2010. While his death was tragic, he brought about the discussion of opioid use and chronic pain back to the table. Opioids are an extremely effective way of treating chronic pain. These medications can be dangerous when they are abused. When used properly, these narcotics can be a life-saver for many people that suffer from chronic pain caused by cancer and other forms. For many people they work. For others, these drugs have created problems.

When taking opioids, many people are either afraid of becoming addicted or they are confident that it will never happen to them. In either case, your doctor and pharmacist should always be monitoring your use and dosage if you are prescribed for long-term use. Long-term use leads to physical dependency on the drugs, not to be confused with addiction or abuse. Just like any drug, like tobacco or caffeine, your body slowly becomes used to it in your system. Addiction disorders are rare and can be treated if the prescriber is vigilant about identifying and addressing the problem. Simply put, everyone that uses prescription drugs should be closely monitored.

With physical dependence comes withdrawal symptoms if the drug use is stopped. These symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements. These symptoms do not mean addiction. Your body is just used to having the drug in the system and stopping the use cold turkey can cause your body to react this way because your body thinks it needs the drug.

If taken in large doses or combined with other drugs or alcohol, opioids become extremely dangerous leading to an overdose that causes your breathing to stop. To prevent an overdose, opioids need to only be taken as prescribed and to not combine them with other medications or substances unless approved by your physician or pharmacist.

Unlike most prescription medications, opioids are commonly abused and distributed illegally. It is good to know how to safely store and dispose of your medications. They should be locked in a container where only you have access to them. Unused portions should be disposed of to prevent ingestions by children, pets, and other family members. Flushing the medication down the toilet or the sink is not recommended. Combine the drug with something distasteful like cat litter or coffee grounds in a sealed bag and throw them in the trash along with the prescription bottle.

These medicines are constantly changing and the way we monitor them is becoming more sophisticated. There are countless resources for research and help if you need more advice on opioids. If you are suffering out of fear of addiction, I can assure you that you can receive the treatment you need.