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Steps to Avoid Addiction / Overdose


If you and your prescriber choose opioids to manage your pain, follow these steps to avoid risk of addiction or overdose:

  • Start low and go slow – your prescriber should give you the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time possible.
  • Never take opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed – otherwise addiction or overdose become more likely.
  • Avoid taking opioids with alcohol.  Mixing can increase your risk of overdose.
  • Avoid mixing opioids with the following medications when possible (unless otherwise advised by your prescriber):
    • Sedatives or tranquilizers, including benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium)
    • Muscle relaxants (such as Soma or Flexeril)
    • Sleeping pills or hypnotics (such as Ambien or Lunesta)
    • Other prescription opioid pain relievers

However, there may be circumstances where prescribing opioids with these medication is necessary and acceptable. Also, your prescriber may use urine drug tests and check your prescription history to help make prescribing decisions that ensure your safety.

  •  Follow up regularly with your healthcare professional to monitor how the medication is working, side effects, or signs of opioid use disorder (like addiction).

If you’re taking opioids for an extended period of time, you should taper – with the guidance of your health care professional – as your pain subsides until you’re off opioids completely. If you’re taking high doses or long-term opioids, consider having naloxone on hand. Opioids aren’t made for long-term use; the more you use them, the more your body builds a tolerance. You’ll have the same level of pain, but need more opioids – increasing your chances of overdose or addiction. Long-term use of opioids can be appropriate for some patients receiving active cancer treatment, palliative care, and/or end-of-life care.