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Use prescription pain medications safely

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BY BOB MOOS
Southwest Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Medicare wants to help you use prescription pain medications safely.

Prescription opioid medications – such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and codeine – can help treat pain after surgery or after an injury, but they carry serious risks, like addiction, an overdose and death.

Those risks increase the higher the dose you take or the longer you use the pain medications, even if you take them as prescribed. Your risks also grow if you take certain other medications, like benzodiazepines (commonly used for anxiety or sleep), or if you get opioid medications from many doctors or pharmacies.

More than 11 million Americans misuse prescription opioids every year. In fact, opioid misuse has become so prevalent that the government has declared it a public health emergency. Opioid overdoses accounted for 47,600 deaths in 2017, and 40 percent of those deaths involved a prescription opioid medication.

For years, Americans overestimated the benefits of opioids and underestimated the risks. Many people became regular users of the pain killers, often quite innocently, with a prescription from a doctor after surgery or an injury or as treatment for a chronic condition. Few thought their growing dependence would lead to addiction.


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