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Opioids: Know the Risks
Find out what opioids are, why they are dangerous, and how to manage your pain without them.
The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. It’s getting a lot of attention in the media because these drugs can so easily open the door to addiction. In fact, 1 in 5 people are at increased risk of opioid addiction with just a 10-day prescription. Here is a little more to explain the dangers of opioids and what you can do to manage pain safely. There have also been important changes to how opioid prescriptions are covered by Medicare plans.
What are some common opioids?
Common prescription opioids include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®, Roxicodone®)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lorcet®, Norco®)
- Morphine (MS Contin®)
- Codeine (Tylenol® with codeine)
- Tramadol (Ultram®)
Why should I be concerned about taking an opioid?
Opioids are highly addictive, even when taken as directed. The longer you take them, the more likely you are to become addicted.
There’s also a risk of side effects when taking opioids with certain medications. For example, combining an opioid with a benzodiazepine—like alprazolam (Xanax®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), or diazepam (Valium®)—might cause a dangerous drug interaction that could lead to an accidental overdose.
If your doctor prescribes an opioid, make sure you talk to them about the risks.
How is the opioid problem being addressed?
Because opioids carry such serious risks, Cigna HealthcareSM Medicare and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have made important safety changes to prescription rules for Medicare customers. For example:
- Opioid prescriptions can only be filled for up to a 1-month supply at a time.
- Customers not used to taking opioids (i.e. haven’t filled an opioid prescription in the past 120 days) will be limited to a 7-day supply for their first fill.
- If you take a high dosage of opioids and fill prescriptions from two or more doctors, your pharmacist may be required to contact your doctor(s) before filling them.
- If you take both an opioid and a benzodiazepine, the pharmacy’s computer system will alert your pharmacist about possible interactions.
If you think these changes will affect you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
How can I get help if I think I have a problem with opioids?
If you are enrolled into one of our Medicare Advantage Plans1, Cigna Healthcare Medicare offers a Substance Use Coaching Program at no additional cost to you. If you’re eligible for the program based on your medical history, a coach will contact you to screen and enroll you in the program. Then we’ll help you find services, resources, and support groups available in your community. We’ll also connect you with treatment options, provide referrals for in-network care, and monitor your progress. For more information about this program, call
What else should I do to manage my pain?
Taking a prescription opioid isn’t the only option for managing pain successfully. You and your doctor should work together to come up with a pain plan. It may include:
- Understanding how your medications work and how they will impact your body.
- Discussing medication risks with your doctor.
- Learning about non-opioid options, such as:
- Occupational and/or physical therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Stress management or depression treatment
- Over-the-counter remedies, such as ibuprofen
- Ice and heat therapy
- Staying active in spite of your pain.
- Keeping a pain diary to help guide you and your doctor in managing your pain.
- Identifying a support network.
- Maintaining a healthy diet.
Opioid addiction doesn't discriminate—it can happen to anyone, even when taken as directed.
1 Cigna Healthcare Medicare Part D Prescription Plans, and Arizona Medicare Advantage Plans with Part D Prescription coverage, and Leon are not eligible for this program at this time.
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Cigna Healthcare products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of The Cigna Group. The Cigna Healthcare names, logos, and marks, including THE CIGNA GROUP and CIGNA HEALTHCARE are owned by The Cigna Group Intellectual Property, Inc. Subsidiaries of The Cigna Group contract with Medicare to offer Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO plans and Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) in select states, and with select State Medicaid programs. Enrollment in a Cigna Healthcare product depends on contract renewal.
To file a marketing complaint, contact Cigna Healthcare or call 1-800-MEDICARE (
Medicare Supplement Policy Disclaimers
Medicare Supplement website content not approved for use in: Oregon.
AN OUTLINE OF COVERAGE IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST. We'll provide an outline of coverage to all persons at the time the application is presented.
Our company and agents are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. Government or the federal Medicare program. This is a solicitation for insurance. An insurance agent may contact you. Premium and benefits vary by plan selected. Plan availability varies by state. Medicare Supplement policies are underwritten by Cigna National Health Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, American Retirement Life Insurance Company or Loyal American Life Insurance Company. Each insurer has sole responsibility for its own products.
The following Medicare Supplement Plans are available to persons eligible for Medicare due to disability: Plan A in Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia; Plans A, F, and G in North Carolina; and Plans C and D in New Jersey for individuals aged 50-64. Medicare Supplement policies contain exclusions, limitations, and terms under which the policies may be continued in force or discontinued. For costs and complete details of coverage, contact the company.
This website is designed as a marketing aid and is not to be construed as a contract for insurance. It provides a brief description of the important features of the policy. Please refer to the policy for the full terms and conditions of coverage.
In Kentucky, Plans A, F, G, HDG, N are available under Cigna National Health Insurance Company, Plans A, F, G, HDF, N are available under Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company and Plans A, B, C, D, F, G, N are available under Loyal American Life Insurance Company.
Kansas Disclosures, Exclusions and Limitations
Medicare Supplement Policy Forms: Plan A: CNHIC-MS-AA-A-KS, CNHIC-MS-AO-A-KS; Plan F: CNHIC-MS-AA-F-KS, CNHIC-MS-AO-F-KS; Plan G: CNHIC-MS-AA-G-KS, CNHIC-MS-AO-G-KS; Plan N: CNHIC-MS-AA-N-KS, CNHIC-MS-AO-N-KS
Exclusions and Limitations:
The benefits of this policy will not duplicate any benefits paid by Medicare. The combined benefits of this policy and the benefits paid by Medicare may not exceed one-hundred percent (100%) of the Medicare Eligible Expenses incurred. This policy will not pay benefits for the following:
(1) the Medicare Part B Deductible;
(2) any expense which You are not legally obligated to pay; or services for which no charge is normally made in the absence of insurance;
(3) any services that are not medically necessary as determined by Medicare;
(4) any portion of any expense for which payment is made by Medicare or other government programs (except Medicaid); or for which payment would have been made by Medicare if You were enrolled in Parts A and B of Medicare;
(5) any type of expense not a Medicare Eligible Expense except as provided previously in this policy;
(6) any deductible, Coinsurance or Co-payment not covered by Medicare, unless such coverage is listed as a benefit in this policy; or
(7) Preexisting Conditions: We will not pay for any expenses incurred for care or treatment of a Preexisting Condition for the first six (6) months from the effective date of coverage. This exclusion does not apply if You applied for and were issued this policy under guaranteed issue status; if on the date of application for this policy You had at least six (6) months of prior Creditable Coverage; or, if this policy is replacing another Medicare Supplement policy and a six (6) month waiting period has already been satisfied. Evidence of prior coverage or replacement must have been disclosed on the application for this policy. If You had less than six (6) months prior Creditable Coverage, the Preexisting Conditions limitation will be reduced by the aggregate amount of Creditable Coverage. If this policy is replacing another Medicare Supplement policy, credit will be given for any portion of the waiting period that has been satisfied.