Prescriptions for Controlled Substances: What You Need to Know

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What are controlled substances?

Controlled substance medications include narcotic (opioid) pain medications, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. When used as prescribed, these medications can be very helpful. The intended purpose of these medications is to relieve pain and other symptoms and to improve your ability to function, not to make you high or help you cope with feeling out of control or sad.

When used over a long time, these medicines cause dependence that requires that the medication be stopped slowly to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependence is not the same as addiction. Addiction is the psychological dependence on these drugs to feel high.

Addiction often results in significant physical, emotional, social and legal problems. Abuse of controlled substances includes allowing others to use your medications, and using them for reasons other than pain or symptom control. Because they have a high potential for addiction/abuse, the prescription and use of controlled substances is carefully regulated by local, state, and federal governments.

How to Manage Prescriptions for Controlled Substances

When controlled substances are prescribed for you, you and your health care provider enter a special partnership. You should expect reasonable care to be taken in the prescribing of medications for you, and timely response to questions and concerns that you raise. You are expected to handle your medication responsibly. Failure to meet these expectations could result in discharge from our care.

  • Protect your prescription and medication from being lost or stolen.
  • Do not increase the frequency or dose of your medication unless directed to do so by your doctor/nurse practitioner. If your pain worsens, call for advice on managing your pain.
  • Do not request or accept a controlled substance medication from any other health care provider or individual unless it has been specifically approved by the doctor or nurse practitioner who usually prescribes your opioids. To do so, can cause harmful drug interactions and side effects.
  • Keep track of your medication supply. Most controlled substances can be obtained only with written prescriptions so these medications will be renewed only at scheduled visits. This avoids calls to request renewals on holidays and weekends when obtaining written prescriptions can be difficult. A 30-day supply is the maximum supply allowed by federal law.
  • Keep all scheduled appointments. If you must change your plans, call as soon as possible before your appointment to re-schedule.
  • Bring the original pharmacy containers of all medication prescribed to each appointment, even if the containers are empty. This helps maintain an accurate record of your medication use.
  • Your use of controlled substances may require that other specialists assist in your care.
  • Your use of controlled substances may require a urine sample to show that you are taking your medications and that you are not using other medications.

If you have questions or concerns about the medications prescribed for you, discuss them with your health care provider.