What is an Opioid?
Opioids are strong medications that work within the brain to relieve pain. They are prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain, usually following an injury or surgery.
Examples of opioid medications include: oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine, though they also come in the form of brand-name products like Vicodin® or Percocet®.
These medications but can have serious side effects if used incorrectly. It is important to understand the risk factors for opioid overdose, and what signs to look out for if you think someone is experiencing an overdose:
Risk Factors for Opioid Overdose
- – Mixing prescription opioids with certain other medicines, illegal drugs, or alcohol
- – Taking opioids after a period of not being on them
- – Taking an opioid called methadone
- – Taking high doses of opioids
- – Previous opioid overdose
- – Having liver, kidney, or breathing problems
Signs of an Opioid Overdose
- – Slow or shallow breathing;
- – Blue or gray lips and fingernails;
- – Pale and/or moist skin; and/or
- – Unable to wake up or respond
Being Prepared For an Opioid Overdose
While opioids can provide patients with pain relief, it is important to understand and protect against the significant risks these medications pose when used inappropriately.
Many individuals that use opioids also have naloxone in their homes, a medication used to counter the effects of opioid overdose. Just as a fire extinguisher is kept in case of a fire, naloxone serves to protect against an opioid overdose.
Naloxone is effective and works within 2-5 minutes, making it useful in life-threatening situations of opioid overdose. Naloxone is safe to use, and can be given by a family member, friend, or caregiver.
Individuals can get naloxone at the pharmacy without having to go to the doctor. A pharmacist will provide education about how to administer the naloxone, so it is best if a family member, friend, or caregiver is present to receive the education as well.
The copay for naloxone can vary depending on your insurance plan. If you would like to see how much naloxone is based on your insurance plan, please feel free to give Sona Pharmacy a call at 828-298-3636.
New North Carolina Opioid Laws
Due to the rising concerns of opioid use around the country, state governments are writing new laws designed to help limit opioid misuse.
In June of 2017, Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina signed the STOP Act, or the “Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention” Act, into law.
The new statewide law, aimed at reducing the number of unused, misused, or diverted opioids circulating the state, contains provisions that have come into effect over the last six months.
Features of the STOP Act update restrictions on prescribing, disposal, and reporting of prescriptions for opioid and opioid-like medications.
Important Facts to Know About the STOP Act:
- – For acute injuries, initial opioid prescriptions will be limited to a 5 day supply.
- – For post-operative or surgical pain, initial opioid prescriptions will be limited to a 7 day supply.
- – For as long as the medication is continued, you will be asked to visit your doctor once every 3 months.
Limiting the duration of opioid use is a major step in reducing the likelihood of abuse or misuse of an opioid prescription. It is important that opioid pain medications are only taken as prescribed.
If you have unused, or no longer needed, medication from an opioid prescription, make sure to dispose of it properly. By doing so, you are helping to reduce the likelihood that it will end up in the wrong hands.
What Can I Do With Unused Medications?
You can take unused prescription and non-prescription medications to dropboxes provided by your local police department.
There is a permanent drop-box located on the first floor of the Judicial Complex (60 Court Plaza in downtown Asheville) inside the Asheville Police Department. Items can be dropped off Monday-Friday during regular business hours. For more details, please contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office at 828-250-6670.
Sona Pharmacy also partners with RHA Substance Free Youth to host Drug Take Back Days. Please be sure to like Sona’s Facebook page to learn more about when the next Drug Take Back day will be held at Sona.
If you have any additional questions, or would like to speak with a pharmacist about opioids, please stop by Sona or give us a call at (828) 298-3636. We are always happy to help.
Tasha Michaels, PharmD, BCACP, Director of Clinical Services & Ryan Marshall, PharmD Candidate