Know the Signs of Prescription Opioid Abuse  

By Jessica Johnson, SIU Clinical Consultant, Prime Therapeutics

August 2, 2023

According to the CDC, 44 people a day die from prescription opioid overdoses, and the impact of these deaths over the last few years have impacted millions of Americans. Perhaps even more tragic is that among these individuals, more than three in five missed an opportunity to receive care that may have saved their lives.  

The fact is that addiction has been stigmatized and is often associated with illegal or illicit drug use rather than prescription drugs. What’s more is that many people who have no history of drug abuse may think they’re not at risk for opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder. This form of addiction is so pervasive because it often starts when someone goes in for a routine surgery or procedure and is prescribed opioid therapy to manage pain. When taken in consultation with a primary care provider, prescribed opioids can be used to effectively manage pain. And yet when not taken as directed, opioids can easily be misused and lead to changes in the brain and nervous system, which can lead to addiction. 

Knowing the signs of prescription opioid addiction can serve as a first line of defense in saving lives, which is why Prime Therapeutics has developed this information for health plan providers and consumers alike. If you or someone you know is taking prescription opioids, be on the lookout for the following signs: 

  • Having severe mood changes 
  • Having trouble thinking or learning 
  • Having trouble making decisions or solving problems 
  • Showing changes in appearance, like poor hygiene or sudden weight changes 
  • Lying about location or activities 
  • Stealing money or drugs from other people 
  • Missing work or not doing well at work 
  • Not talking to friends, family or loved ones for long periods of time 

Always consult a pharmacist and/or primary care provider before taking opioids. Not only can they suggest alternative therapies to these drugs, but they can look at your medical history to effectively manage potential pain. 

Curbing opioid addiction also means stopping it before it starts, which is why Prime Therapeutics partners with providers and pharmacies with education and intervention tools. Our investigators and clinical staff work closely with prescribers to address concerns such as gaps in care coordination and patient safety to help spot inappropriate opioid prescribing patterns.  

In fact, between July 2022 to July 2023, Prime’s SIU team took remedial action to stop more than 800 fraudulent prescriptions at point of sale, leading to a savings of $359,000, which may have otherwise increased health care costs for insured individuals. And this is just a portion of our effort toward elevating patient safety and saving health care costs.  

Click here for more opioid tips, or visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for additional guidance.  

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