• Mayo Clinic Minute: When are opioids OK to take?

Opioids can help manage some pain, but it's easy to use them inappropriately. Misuse can cause illness, harm or death. And health problems can develop even when you think you're being careful. Reporter Vivien Williams talks with Dr. Mike Hooten, a pain management specialist at Mayo Clinic.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: The broadcast-quality video pkg (0:58) is in the downloads. Read the script.

This can be a common scenario: raiding the medicine cabinet for leftover painkillers after a sprained ankle or toothache. There’s nothing wrong with popping an occasional opioid, right?

“They are dangerous. They could have adverse effects that the individual doesn’t even know about.” That includes addiction or accidental overdose. So when is it appropriate to take opioids?

“After an operation, opioids are highly effective,” says Dr. Mike Hooten, a pain management specialist at Mayo Clinic.“After trauma, for example, severe trauma, opioids would be appropriate.”

Dr. Hooten says opioids are also beneficial during procedures, such as colonoscopies. Problems happen when people take them without a prescription or for too long.

“If they are predisposed to develop addiction, either neurobiologically or from a behavioral perspective, then all of a sudden we are selecting the individuals who may go on to have long-term problems.” If you have pain, talk to your health care provider.

Related articles