High on Life – Not Pain Meds

By April Bennett RN, BSN  Boundary Community Hospital

Millions of Americans suffer from pain and are subsequently given prescription opioids to treat that pain such as OxyContin, hydrocodone, and numerous others. Many people believe that prescribed pain medication is safe because it is prescribed by their doctor. Does this sound like you or someone that you know? If it does, here are some facts that you should know. Prescription opioids are highly addictive and can be extremely dangerous and even fatal if misused. In fact deaths related to opioid overdose have become the third leading cause of death in the United States (Center for Disease Control, 2018).

Boundary County Ranked Highest for Opioid Prescriptions

What does that mean to you and our community? 13 of Idaho’s 44 counties were classified by the CDC to have the highest rate of opioids prescribed by providers. Boundary County was among those 13 counties, ranking in the top third
for the entire State of Idaho (Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, 2017). With those staggering statistics
it is important that we educate ourselves so that we can recognize what opioid misuse looks like, and avoid its potential dangers.

You may be in danger for opioid misuse and not even be aware of it.

Some of the signs and symptoms of misuse to be aware of are:

  • Taking higher doses of your prescription or taking it more frequently than prescribed and running out of your prescription too soon,
  • Withdrawing from family and friends, and avoiding social setting,
  • Extreme changes in weight related to loss of appetite, and change in sleep patterns,
  • Exhibiting abnormal behavior such as excessive mood swings, and a change in personality, and
  • Neglecting responsibilities, being distracted and unable to focus.

If this sounds like you or someone that you know don’t hesitate; reach out for help (StopOverdoseIdaho.org).

You Can Make a Difference

Start by talking to your doctor about the risks of taking opioids, and asking if there is an alternative treatment. Take your medication only as
prescribed, and store medication safely out of the reach of others. Dispose of excess medications properly – clean out your medicine cabinets, and get rid of unused medications. Here in Boundary County, you can properly dispose of your unused medications at the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, 6438 Kootenai St.in Bonners Ferry.  If you have elderly parents check their medicine cabinets and dispose of any unused and expired opioids. Why not just throw them out? Medications that are flushed or thrown in the trash can seep into groundwater and get into rivers and lakes, harming the
environment and community drinking water.

It’s no secret that addiction to prescription pain medications is an epidemic in Idaho and across the nation. There are alternatives to manage pain including physical therapy, exercise, over-the-counter drugs so be sure to take an active role in your health care and ask more questions when your doctor prescribes opioids. Help reduce opioid addiction in Boundary County by doing your part. We will all benefit.