An opioid (narcotic) medicine has been
ordered to help you manage pain while your
body heals. It is meant to be used for a short
time. It should be stopped when no longer
needed. If taken right, opioids can be a safe
and helpful part of your care plan.
ξ Never take more opioids than
ordered. Call your doctor if you feel
you are not getting enough pain
ξ Do not drink alcohol while taking
ξ Do not drive or use heavy machinery
while taking opioids.
ξ Do not use other medicines that
make you tired or sleepy. Tell your
doctor if you use:
o Benzodiazepines (such as
Valium® or Xanax®)
o Sleeping aids (such as
Ambien® or Trazodone®)
ξ Never share your medicines with
ξ Try to take fewer opioids each day.
To do this, you could try taking
fewer tablets per dose. A second
option is to leave more time between
doses. It is helpful to keep track of
how much and how often you are
taking your pain medicines. Lower
doses can reduce side effects.
ξ Ask about other medicines you could
use to control your pain (such as
acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or
ξ Use non-drug therapies such as
relaxation, ice, or distraction. See the
back side of this sheet for specific
ξ Opioids can be habit-forming for
some people. They can also cause
symptoms of withdrawal if taken for
a long period of time and stopped
suddenly. Let your doctor know if
you develop any of these symptoms:
ξ Store your medicines in a locked
or secure place.
ξ Be aware of others who may have
access to your opioids.
o Children under the age of 6
and pets are at highest risk
for swallowing them by
o Ages 12 and older may be
looking to take them for
There are safe ways to dispose of any
leftover opioids when you no longer need
them. For a list of local drop boxes, refer to
ξ Wisconsin: http://doseof
ξ Other States:
You can also contact your local police
ξ If there is no drop box in your area,
mix the pills with either kitty litter or
coffee grounds. Seal in a plastic bag
and throw in the trash.
ξ Deterra Drug Deactivation System is
another option for safe disposal. It is
easy to use and safe for the
environment. You can buy this from
select UW Health pharmacies.
Information for Family, Friends and
ξ If the person taking opioids is
sleeping heavily and snoring, and/or
appears to be having trouble
breathing, wake them up.
ξ Call 911 right away if you have
trouble waking them up.
ξ If there are concerns about overdose
(accidental or intentional), please ask
your local pharmacist. He or she can
talk with you about Naloxone
(Narcan) Rescue Kits.
Using non-drug therapies along with
medicine may help to control pain. There are
a number of things you can try.
1. Relaxation and Guided Imagery
Tense or stiff muscles may increase pain.
Relaxation or guided imagery exercises may
help. Here is an example of one of the
Think about your toes. While you are
thinking about your toes, curl them into
a ball and hold them tight while you
count to 3. Now relax your toes. Take a
deep breath and relax your toes. Now
think about your legs. While you are
thinking about your legs, tighten your
leg muscles. Hold them tight while you
count to 3. Now relax your legs. Take a
deep breath. Feel your legs relax.
Keep going and move up the body all the
way to the head.
If you have internet access, go to the website
www.uwhealth.org. Type “relaxation” or
“guided imagery” in the search box for more
Distraction is a way to take your focus away
from the pain. You might find one of these
ξ listening to music
ξ reading a book,
ξ watching a movie,
ξ playing a game,
ξ coloring, or
3. Cold and Heat Packs
Cold or heat may help swollen or sore body
parts. Check with your health care
provider before using these treatments.
Here are some key points:
ξ Put a cold or heat pack on the painful
area for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Wait at least 20 minutes in between
ξ Ice should be wrapped in a cloth and
not put directly on the skin.
ξ If you have pain or numbness when
using the cold pack, take it off.
ξ Heat packs should be around 104-
ξ Do not use cold or heat on open parts
of the skin or if you have poor blood
Call your doctor or clinic if you have
questions or concerns.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©11/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7988.