Preventing opioid overuse

Sharp Health Plan is here to keep you safe.

Every day, 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One major concern is the combined use of opioids, benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants. This trio of drugs is known as the “Holy Trinity” or “Triple Threat” due to the dangerous risks they pose to a person’s health — taking all three can result in death.

Sharp Health Plan is preventing opioid overuse with its “opioid cumulative dose program” to reduce the likelihood of members receiving unsafe levels of opioid medicines. Prescription drug monitoring programs like the opioid safety program, are critical to keeping our communities safe. Since launching its program in 2017, Sharp Health Plan reports that among its membership — a total of more than 145,000 lives — zero individuals have overlapping prescriptions for triple-threat drugs.

Opioids have been used for hundreds of years to treat pain. Today, doctors prescribe opioids to people who are in pain from sports injuries, post-surgery and cancer. However, people can misuse opioids by not following instructions from their doctor, taking other people’s pills or taking opioids to get high. Misuse over time can lead to overuse, addiction and sometimes overdosing. In 2016, the number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. was five times higher than it was nearly two decades ago, according to the CDC. As a result, the federal government declared a public health emergency last fall.

“Anyone can become addicted to opioids,” says Cary B. Shames, DO, chief medical officer of Sharp Health Plan. “That’s why it’s important to be proactive in preventing overuse and protecting patient safety.”

Sharp Health Plan’s opioid cumulative dose program reviews information for members who are receiving opioid drugs from two or more prescribers. When these members fill prescriptions at the pharmacy, the program checks the morphine-equivalent dosing of their drugs to help avoid overuse.

“This coordinated care and integration of members’ health care information is critical to preventing opioid overuse or abuse,” says Dr. Shames.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from opioid overuse is to turn away from social pressure to use drugs “for fun” and to take medicines only as prescribed by your doctor — and if absolutely needed.

“And only take them for a short period of time,” adds Dr. Shames.

NOTE: If you are worried about someone you know, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Treatment Referral line at 1-800-662-HELP.

Our opioid safety program is here to protect you.