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Opioids FAQs

Aetna developed these Q&A's, which CDC reviewed for accuracy. CDC does not endorse private products, services, or enterprises.

Emergencies

What should I do if someone takes an overdose of opioids? 
Call 911.

What should I do if I can’t wake someone up who takes opioids? 
Call 911. Turn the person on his/her side. If you have Narcan (naloxone), inject it or give it through the nose (intranasally). Naloxone is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose, and some states allow it to be dispensed without a prescription in pharmacies.

Aetna coverage

Will Aetna pay for third-party prescriptions of naloxone? 
Narcan (nasal or injectable naloxone) is covered under all Aetna plans. Coverage must be tied to the member who is using it, through the pharmacy claims system. Members also can pay themselves and then submit a claim for reimbursement.

Will Aetna cover buprenorphine and methadone? 
Aetna covers buprenorphine without prior authorization. There may be a limit on the quantity. Methadone used for addiction is covered by a medical plan (not through pharmacy coverage) because it is provided in methadone clinics.

Opioid prescriptions

I take a lot of medications apart from opioids. Should I be concerned about taking my other pills with opioids? 
Some medications do interact with opioids. Talk with your doctor or a pharmacist to understand how your existing medications might interact with each other.

My doctor stopped prescribing me opioids or will no longer see me because of the high doses of opioids I’m on. What can I do? 
The CDC provides a prescribing guideline for doctors - however, that guideline is voluntary and designed to allow for individual differences. If you feel you are being unfairly treated by your doctor, you should have a detailed discussion with him or her about your treatment plan.

What do I do with extra pills if I am no longer taking opioids? 
The easiest way to dispose of extra medication is to return it to the pharmacy where you got it.

Or, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency do recommend flushing unused opioids down the toilet.

FDA guidance on disposing of unused opioids

Finally, you can bring unused opioids to pharmacies or law enforcement locations that are registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to collect these medications. Some offer mail-back programs or drop boxes.

See more information from the DEA
Find a location near you to drop off unused medications

I have back pain and my doctor has prescribed opioids. I don’t know if I should use them.
If your doctor has prescribed opioids, or any other medication, you should have a detailed discussion with him/her to discuss why these are being prescribed, how long you are expected to take them, and any other concerns, including:

  • Side effects
  • Interactions with other medications
  • Potential for addiction

If you continue taking opioids, first discuss the risks and benefits of opioid therapy, as well as your expectations for pain management.

  • Non-opioid medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exercise (including physical therapy)
  • Biofeedback
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga

I have a prescription for opioids but it’s not enough to control my pain, or I run out of pills before I can get my next refill. What should I do?
Please contact the doctor who prescribed the medication to further discuss your treatment plan.

Opioid addiction

I have a friend who has trouble with opioids. What can I do to help? 
If you have a friend or family member who you believe has a problem, encourage them to contact their doctor or call their health insurance company. If your friend or family member does not have health insurance, they can go to an emergency room or urgent care clinic.

Get more information about finding treatment for opioid addiction

I think I may have a problem with opioids. What should I do?  
If you believe that you are dependent on prescribed opioid medication, contact your prescribing physician. If you have become addicted to opioids that have not been prescribed to you, it is important to consult with your physician if you have one.

If you do not have a doctor you can speak with and you have Aetna coverage, call Member Services. The number is on the back of your ID card. 

Methadone, naltrexone and other treatments for opioid addiction

Can you give me more information about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)? 
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications (such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone) with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose.

MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to heroin or to prescription pain relievers that contain opioids. The medication works to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids (the “high”), relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative effects of the abused drug.

Methadone
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that helps reduce cravings for the abused drug. It also can be abused, and therefore should be prescribed by a physician. Pregnant or breastfeeding women must inform their treatment provider before taking methadone.

Buprenorphine: 
Like methadone, buprenorphine suppresses and reduces cravings for the abused drug. It can come in a pill form or a film that is placed under the tongue.

Naltrexone: 
Naltrexone works differently than methadone and buprenorphine. If a person using naltrexone relapses and uses the abused drug, naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of the abused drug and prevents feelings of euphoria.

Online resources

Substance abuse treatment centers locator
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs by state
Find a physician near your who offers buprenorphine treatment
MAT support groups and organizations

Contact numbers

Aetna members – call the Member Services number on your ID card to talk to someone about treatment with opioids, or treatment for opioid addiction.

Or, anyone can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at 1-866-287-2728

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