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Have a question about your health?

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Your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist is a healthcare professional with a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of health topics. If you have a question about your health or medication, chances are, your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist knows the answer.

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My doctor just prescribed an opioid for me. Should I be concerned about what I've been reading in the news? How can I ensure I'm using it safely?

Answer from Express Scripts Canada Pharmacist, Farah Belayadi:

Ask the Pharmacist – Managing opioid medications

Hi. I’m Farah Belayadi, your Express Scripts Canada pharmacist. Welcome to Ask the Pharmacist.

Here is today’s question:

My doctor just prescribed an opioid for me. Should I be concerned about what I've been reading in the news? How can I ensure I'm using it safely?


This is a great question. If you are taking opioids or talking with your doctor about this treatment option, now is the time to plan for the safe use of these medications. Planning can mean the difference between successful treatment and serious risks for you or your loved ones.

It’s important to remember that prescription opioids used for pain relief are generally safe when taken for a short time and used as prescribed by a doctor. Patients need to know the facts about opioids so they can get the benefit of these medications while understanding and managing the risks.

It’s important that you work closely with your doctor to make sure you know how to manage this medication. As you and your doctor discuss your treatment, ask their help to create a plan to manage your pain.

Here are some general guidelines that you might want to consider before you start taking a prescription opioid:

  • Ask that you be prescribed the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time possible.
    • In most cases acute pain is not usually severe enough to require opioids for more than three days.
  • Ask your doctor how you can reduce the risk of potential side effects from your opioid treatment.
    • Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you are still feeling pain and don’t feel like the medication is helping, call your doctor – do not take an extra dose.
    • Keep in mind that opioids may cause drowsiness: avoid driving or doing any activity that requires vigilance after taking a dose.
  • Establish realistic treatment goals. Your doctor should help you determine what to expect from the treatment in terms of pain relief and help palliate to any gap in order to help you feel better and get back to your everyday life.
  • Talk to your pharmacist because they are an essential part of your health care team.
    • Your pharmacist is an expert in helping patients with medication information, so it is important that you tell them about all of the medications you are taking so that they can help you avoid possible interactions. If you are a patient of the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy, we can review your entire medication profile with you from the comfort of your own home and with complete privacy.
  • Most importantly – watch for signs of trouble.
    • Opioids can affect behavior. If you feel like your thinking or your judgment might be altered, or your loved ones have concerns about your consumption, consult your doctor or pharmacist as they can help modify or taper off your medications.


  • Be on the lookout for signs of opioid abuse. These signs could include taking more than the prescribed dose of medication, taking pain medication “just in case” when you know you’re not in any pain, or borrowing medication from other people, or using medication prescribed for someone else.


  • Discard immediately any unused opioids by bringing them to the pharmacy, where they can be safely destroyed. This will avoid misuse by family members or visitors.

Remember, opioids can be very successful treatment options to help manage pain, but they can also be dangerous if you don’t take them as prescribed and plan for their safe use. A plan can help you or your loved ones recover from pain and return to happy and healthy lives.

Until next time, this has been Ask the Pharmacist.

I wish you good health.



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Disclaimer: The information provided is not a substitute for medical or professional advice, judgment, diagnosis or treatment or a recommendation or endorsement for any health care provider, product, procedure, service or other information that may be mentioned. Reliance on any information is solely at the user’s own risk. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. In no event will Express Scripts Canada be liable for any loss or damages of any kind resulting from user’s access to or use of the information on this web site or use of any information contained in linked web sites.
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