Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Safe Use of Long-Acting Opioids

Safe Use of Long-Acting Opioids

Overview

Opioids are strong medicines. They can help you manage pain when you use them the right way. But they can cause serious harm and even death.

If you decide to take opioids, here are some things to remember.

Keep your doctor informed.

You can develop opioid use disorder. Moderate to severe opioid use disorder is sometimes called addiction. The risk is higher if you have a history of substance use. Your doctor will monitor you closely for signs of opioid use disorder and to figure out when you no longer need to take opioids.

Make a treatment plan.

The goal of your plan is to be able to function and do the things you need to do, even if you still have some pain. You might be able to manage your pain with other non-opioid options. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), physical therapy, relaxation, non-opioid prescription pain medicine, and over-the-counter pain medicines.

Be aware of the side effects.

Opioids can cause side effects, such as constipation, sleepiness, and nausea. And over time, you may need a higher dose to get pain relief. This is called tolerance. Your body also gets used to opioids. This is called physical dependence. If you suddenly stop taking them, you may have withdrawal symptoms. Serious risks of using opioids include overdose and death.

Safety tips when using long-acting opioids

If you need to take opioids to manage your pain, remember these safety tips.

Follow directions carefully.

It's easy to misuse opioids if you take a dose other than what's prescribed by your doctor. This can lead to accidental overdose and even death. Even sharing them with someone they weren't meant for is misuse.

Be cautious.

Opioids may affect your judgment and decision making. Do not drive or operate machinery while you take them. Talk with your doctor about when it is safe to drive.

Reduce the risk of drug interactions.

Opioids can be dangerous if you take them with alcohol or with certain drugs like sleeping pills and muscle relaxers. The combination can decrease your breathing rate and lead to overdose or death. Make sure your doctor knows about all the other medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines. Don't start any new medicines before you talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Safely store and dispose of opioids.

Store opioids in a safe and secure place. Make sure that pets, children, friends, and family can't get to them. When you're done using opioids, make sure to dispose of them safely and as quickly as possible. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends these disposal options.

  • The best option is to take your medicine to a drop-off box or take-back program that is authorized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
  • If these programs aren't available in your area and your medicine doesn't have specific disposal instructions (such as flushing), you can throw them into your household trash if you follow the FDA's instructions. Visit fda.gov and search for "unused medicine disposal."
  • If you have opioid patches (used or unused), your options are to take them to a DEA-authorized site or flush them down the toilet. Do not throw them in the trash.
  • Only flush your medicine down the toilet if you can't get to a DEA-approved site or your medicine instructions state clearly to flush them.
Reduce the risk of overdose.

Opioids can be very dangerous. Protect yourself by asking your doctor about a naloxone rescue kit. It can help you—and even save your life—if you take too much of an opioid.

What are some examples of long-acting opioids?

  • Fentanyl patch
  • Methadone
  • Morphine sulfate
  • Oxycodone controlled-release

What are the side effects?

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. You may:

  • Be constipated.
  • Feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Feel sleepy.
  • Have trouble urinating.
  • Have a low sex drive.
  • Need larger doses over time.

The risk of overdose and misuse is higher with long-acting opioids.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Chronic Pain Pain Management Osteoarthritis

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details