Dos and Dont’s for Opioid Therapy

Opioids are categorized as “controlled substances” because, although they can be instrumental in managing your chronic pain, they are highly sought after by people who are looking to abuse them. As a result, physicians are required to use risk management strategies such as pain contracts, pill counts, and urine drug screens to document that you are taking your medication as prescribed.


  • Follow your physician’s instructions carefully and ask any questions you have about taking or storing your medication
  • Read the information sheet included with your prescription
  • Report any side effects to your physician immediately
  • Tell your physician if you or someone in your family has a history of mental illness or substance abuse such as being prone to compulsive behavior, using illicit drugs, or alcoholism
  •  Know the difference between tolerance, physical dependence and addiction
  • Use a pain diary to record your pain and how your treatment is working between your appointments
  • Use one pharmacy to fill all prescriptions
  • Safely store opioid medications – For instructions, see Tips for Safe Storage of Prescription Medications
  • Dispose of any expired or unwanted medications – For instructions on how to do this, see How to Dispose of Unused Medications
  • Keep track of when and how much medication you take
  • Always double check you are taking the correct medication at the correct dose
  • File a police report and contact your physician immediately if you suspect your medication has been stolen


  • Change the dosage of your medication without the approval of your physician – Doing so may cause serious illness, injury, or death
  • Share your medication with anyone
  • Drive or use heavy machinery when first starting a new medication until you know how that medication will affect you
  • Chew, cut, crush, or dissolve opioid tablets or patches and open opioid capsules unless specifically instructed to do so
  • Use opioids to treat non-pain related conditions such as stress, irritability, or insomnia
  • Mix opioids with alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines – All of these medications can cause your breathing to slow. Therefore, combining them can be fatal.

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