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Treatment admissions related to opioid use have more than tripled since 2005, according to the Iowa Bureau of Substance Abuse. During that same time frame, the Iowa Bureau of Health Statistics found that opioid overdose and related deaths have more than doubled.

If your doctor or dentist prescribes an opioid pain reliever, medical experts recommend asking these questions:

1. Why do I need this medicine?

Ask your doctor for reasons why it is right for you.

2. Are there other options for my pain?

An over-the-counter pain reliever may be enough, or physical therapy or chiropractic care could give the same results.

3. How long do I take this?

Extended opioid use can increase the risk of dependence and addiction. Talk with with your doctor about how long you should take the medicine and whether it should be refilled.

4. What are the current medical guidelines?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published specific guidelines, directing doctors to prescribe the lowest dose for the shortest length of time possible.

5. What are my risks for addiction?

Some people may be more prone to addiction than others. A report published by the CDC suggests the risk of chronic opioid use rises with each additional day after the third day, with a steep rise after the fifth day.

6. How does this medicine mix with my other medicines?

Opioids can be deadly when mixed with other drugs, especially those taken for treatment of anxiety, sleeping disorders and seizures. It’s a bad idea to mix alcohol with an opioid pain reliever.

7. What are the expected side effects?

These vary. They might include feeling sick to your stomach, sleepiness, extreme excitement, itching and more.

Dr. Sam Ho is chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare.


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