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Healthier Together: Informed Opioid Use

Posted at 12:37 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 18:13:02-04

Utah has made significant progress in fighting the opioid epidemic, but that progress through the pandemic has started to slip.

Dr. Hossam Mahmoud, Behavioral Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield says, “Opioids are very effective at managing pain, when used appropriately and safely.”

Mahmoud says unfortunately what we’ve seen over the past several years is the overprescribing of opioids, misuse and abuse.

“For most patients, they shouldn’t be receiving more than 7 days of opioids to treat acute pain.”

He says while effective, opioids are highly addictive, and other pain management approaches should be explored when possible.

Some alternative methods include psychotherapy, reducing external stress factors, relaxation, meditation and other holistic methods.

At Regence, Mahmoud says they’ve been able to have these conversations and decrease the use of opioids by their members by 51 percent since 2015.

He says it’s important to ask your prescriber questions about the risk of addiction and find out if they have suggestions for other pain management methods.

You should also ask how long you’re expected to take the medication, and what the plan is to taper off your use of opioids, as well as the dosage recommendations.

“Is it a high dose? Is it a low dose? Is it going to help address your pain needs that really meets your needs without being too high of a dose?”

Opioid related deaths have fallen since highs in 2015, but those decreases have slowed. Utah is still well above the national average in drug related deaths.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to opioids, there are resources to help: