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Opioid Awareness

4 Ways Patients Can Push for Safer Pain Management

Jenny Burke

Senior Director, Advocacy, National Safety Council

Opioid-related misuse, addiction, overdose and death can happen to anyone, even when these medications are used under the care of a doctor. In fact, 4 out of 5 new heroin users started by misusing opioid pain medications. But a few simple steps can make a difference and help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Here are four ways patients can take action to help fight this epidemic.

1. Use an “Opioids: Warn Me” label

One in 3 Americans surveyed by the National Safety Council did not know that the medicines they were prescribed were opioids. You can start a conversation with your doctor by placing an “Opioids: Warn Me” label on your insurance and pharmacy cards. These labels tell your doctor you want to know what you are being prescribed. Order your “Warn Me” label at 

2. Ask about alternatives

Once you start the conversation, ask your doctor about alternatives to opioid pain medications and compare your options. For example, one ibuprofen and one extra-strength acetaminophen, when taken together, are just as effective as opioids at treating acute pain.

3. Ask for a short prescription

If opioids are necessary, ask for the minimum amount required for the shortest duration. Many doctors prescribe a 7 to 10 day supply, but a three-day prescription of opioid pain relievers is typically sufficient.

4. Safely dispose of unneeded and expired opioids

Most opioid misusers get the drugs from family and friends, making it crucial that you remove these drugs from your medicine cabinet, rather than keeping them for future use. Look for a safe disposal site at your local pharmacy or police station.

Though you might not see yourself as a part of the opioid crisis, you, your neighbors and your loved ones could easily become involved. To stay safe, don’t be afraid to speak up about these risks, ask your doctor about alternatives and encourage your family and friends to do the same. This epidemic claims more than 100 lives every day, and it will take all of us to end it. To learn more, go to

Jenny Burke, Senior Director, Advocacy, National Safety Council, [email protected]

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