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Opioids in Alaska

Prevention At Home

Use caution with prescription opioids

If you're injured, have a surgery or dental work, you may experience some pain as a normal part of healing. You and your provider will assess the risks and benefits for pain management options, and in many cases a non-opioid pain management solution may be an effective option.

Common alternatives to opioids

  • Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, or a combination of these two over the counter options.
  • Other non-narcotic pain management medications that reduce inflammation and pain
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercises such as walking, pilates, core exercises, swimming, dancing and yoga
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Counseling with a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or help with other therapies for managing the emotional aspect of pain.
  • Functional medicine, traditional medicine, meditation, music therapy and many others

Discussions to have with your provider

Opioid medications are sometimes prescribed for treating severe pain, such as from cancer or immediately after a surgery. If opioids are prescribed, the fewer days you’re on an opioid, and the lower the dose, the lower the risk of dependence will be. Ask for the lowest effective dose possible, for the shortest amount of time. For many prescriptions, this would ideally be for no more than a three day supply (often this is as few as 10 pills). Important discussions with your provider to guide your care include:

  • Whether some pain is expected following your procedure or injury.
  • How to manage your pain better without taking prescription opioids.
  • History of trauma, psychiatric illness including anxiety or depression.
  • Any personal or family history of mental health conditions or substance use disorders
  • Medications, alcohol or other substances you may be using, especially benzodiazepines.
  • Dosing and timing of opioid medication. The fewer days you’re on an opioid, and the lower the dose, the lower the risk of dependence will be. Ask for the lowest dose possible, for the shortest amount of time.
  • Side effects associated with your prescription, and signs of overdose.

The support of family and friends is critical to preventing opioid addiction. If prescribed opioids, let your family members and friends know. Know and discuss the signs of dependence or addiction.

Store and dispose of medicine safely

Do you have leftover prescriptions, especially pain pills? Dispose of unused medication promptly and safely. This protects children from accidental poisoning, and prevents theft by visitors, relatives (including teens) or strangers.

  • Most drugs should not be flushed or thrown in the trash. You can get safe disposal bags from your local public health center that deactivate certain drugs, such as opioids. All you need to do is add your medication and water according to the instructions on the bag. When you're done, the bag is safe to throw away. These bags are currently available free of charge at many State of Alaska Public Health Centers.
  • There are also spring and fall national drug take-back events in many Alaska communities. You can bring in old or unneeded prescriptions and drop them off with law enforcement, no questions asked. Find more information on the Takeback website and in FDA guidelines.

Carefully manage your prescriptions.

  • Don’t share your prescriptions with anyone. Besides the possibility of legal consequences, it puts the person at risk of addiction and overdose.
  • Keep your current prescriptions out of the reach of children and visitors and locked in a hidden place (not the medicine cabinet). Store prescriptions in their original packaging.
  • Carefully note when and how much medicine you take in order to keep track of how much is left.
  • If you think that someone has taken your medicine, ask the person why. If they might need help because they depend heavily on drugs, or might even be addicted, they can talk to their doctor. If necessary, contact the police. If someone has a problem, this might be exactly what they need to get help.

Talk to your children

Talk to your children about drugs, why people use them and why they are harmful. Employ age-appropriate advice and keep talking about it as kids get older. Keep in the mind the importance of modeling and discussing ways of handling stress, crises, and the ups and downs of daily life without relying on alcohol or drugs. At the same time, do positive, healthy things with your kids. When discussing drug use with your kids, remember to:

  • Focus on the facts, including how prescription medicines can be helpful to people if used appropriately.
  • Set clear rules and expectations around drug use.
  • Give kids an out – maybe a code word they can call or text if they’re in a situation they want to get out of quickly.
  • Keep the door open whenever they want to talk.

Talking to loved ones and friends

Learn how to support a loved one.