There were a great many responses to my story about the fellow who had his opioid pain medicines stolen and the problems he had after that getting a physician to help him. One quick lesson in this situation is for people to be very careful about storing these medicines. Keep them out of sight and in a secure location. The fact is that opioid medicines are stolen or diverted out of all points along the supply chain--stolen from warehouses, stolen from pharmacies, and stolen from people's homes, pocket books, desks, and other private locations. For more information about safe medication use and storage, visit the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) Web site.
What should you do if your opioid medicine is stolen? First, file a police report. Obtain a copy for your personal records. Make another copy that can be added to the medical record kept by your healthcare prescriber. Notify that provider about the theft and ask for further instructions. You may be asked to come in for another appointment for a re-evaluation and discussion of this event. Do not be alarmed if a blood or urine drug screen is suggested. You may also be given a new prescription in smaller amounts and asked to come into the office for more frequent visits as a way to watch for behaviors that could cause further concern.
Stay tuned for more discussion on issues such as what to do if you lost your prescription, what to do if you have been "fired" from your care provider, and what to do if you are forced to come off of your pain medication without medical guidance.
The biggest contributing factor to the challenges in all of these scenarios is the clash between regulatory/law enforcement and pain medicine practice. That too will be taken up in a future entry.