Left Chevron
 FDA Alerts
December 8, 2023

Advice from FDA: What to Ask Your Doctor Before Taking Opioids

Download This Safety Alert

Opioids (narcotics) are powerful pain medicines that may be prescribed by your doctor, dentist, or other healthcare provider to treat acute or chronic pain from an injury or surgical procedure. Examples of opioids include hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. These medicines are strong and can alleviate pain so that healing and recovery can occur. But these medicines can have some serious side effects. So, it is important to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. You may want to start the conversation by asking, “Why do I need this medicine?” and "Is it right for me?” If an opioid is prescribed, make sure you ask these important questions:

  • How long should I take this medicine? It is important to know when and how to stop using the opioid. Sometimes the medicine has to be stopped gradually to decrease withdrawal symptoms.
  • How can I reduce the risk of potential side effects from this medicine? Take the medicine exactly as prescribed. Do not take an extra dose. If you still have pain, call your doctor. Your pharmacist can provide you with a Medication Guide that describes various side effects that can occur. Learn about serious side effects such as excessive sleepiness or a feeling of craving more medicine. These are signs to call your doctor.
  • What if I have a history of substance use disorder? It is very important to tell your doctor if you had a history of substance use disorder with drugs or alcohol. It is also important to tell your doctor if you have a history of cigarette smoking. Your doctor should also be told if anyone in your family or household has or has had a substance use disorder (with drugs or alcohol).
  • What about the other medicines I am taking? Your doctor should have a list of all the medicines you take including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Even medicines you only take once in a while could interact with opioid medicines.
  • How should I store my opioid medicine? All medicines should be stored up and away and out of reach and sight of children. Teenagers and young adults or those with substance use disorders may also seek out opioid pain medicines for nonmedical use. So, keep them in a place where only you have access.
  • What should I do with unused opioid medicine? Opioid medicines should be disposed of immediately to prevent accidental exposures or unintended use by others in the home. Dispose of opioids through a drug take-back program in your community (www.ismp.org/ext/1206). If you do not have one, check the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website to see which opioids can be flushed down the toilet (www.ismp.org/ext/1207).
  • Can I share this medicine with someone else? No. Your prescription is for you. Your doctor prescribed the dose and type of medicine for you. If someone else takes it, they may have a serious reaction or overdose.
  • Can I have a prescription for naloxone? Naloxone is a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It is important to discuss with your doctor whether you should have naloxone at home while taking opioids. FDA has recently approved an OTC naloxone nasal spray (no prescription needed) (www.ismp.org/ext/1127).

Here’s what you can do: Ask your doctor or healthcare provider all of these questions when an opioid pain medicine is being considered to treat pain you are experiencing. Ask about alternative medicines, such as non-opioid pain relievers, which may help treat your pain. Keep all medicines up and away and out of reach and sight of children.

Advice from FDA is a feature brought to you by the FDA. You can find this information and more on FDA’s Consumer Health Information website. This website features the latest updates on medicines and products regulated by the FDA. Sign up to receive a free FDA Consumer Update subscription.

Published December 8, 2023

Please visit the following link for more information: 
Advice from FDA: What to Ask Your Doctor Before Taking Opioids