Patient Information

This information sheet is intended to be given to patients whenever they are prescribed an opioid. It briefly explains what opioids are, how they work, how to take them, and common risks and side effects. It also provides some safety tips, and explains proper storage and disposal of pills.

This pamphlet is recommended for any patient who is prescribed an opioid and, more importantly, meant to be given to a family member or friend. It discusses what naloxone is, where to get it, what to do and what not to do during an opioid overdose. Giving all patients a prescription for naloxone if they are discharged on an opioid is likely best, but certainly if they have one or more of the following factors which increases their risk for opioid overdose:

◊ age > 65 years
◊ higher opioid dosages (>50 mg oral morphine equivalents daily)
◊ use of long-acting or extended-release formulations
◊ history of overdose
◊ current or prior history of substance use disorder
◊ current or prior history of alcohol abuse
◊ concurrent benzodiazepine use
◊ impaired respiratory function
◊ tobacco use
◊ sleep apnea
◊ impaired renal function
◊ impaired hepatic function
◊ impaired cardiac function
◊ major depression

This Fact Sheet, from the International Association for the Study of Pain, addresses what the patient and their family should do to prepare for an upcoming surgery to help ensure their pain is effectively managed. This includes, discussing the likelihood of pain, as well as its likely intensity, duration, and plan to manage it. The patient is asked to reveal relevant aspects of their medical history such as prior pain problems, current pain therapies, and conditions such as adverse reactions to medications. The patient is encouraged to ask who will formulate the personal “pain plan”, if it will be “multimodal”, who will monitor the pain plan and adjust or change it if needed and what are the plans for pain control after discharge from the hospital – including who to contact if the pain plan is inadequate. Overall, this guidance encourages patient and family-centered care based upon evidence and shared decision-making.

This Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense document, meant for patients, was compiled to provide information and assist decision making. It is not intended to define a standard of care and should not be construed as one. Neither should it be interpreted as prescribing an exclusive course of management.