The ongoing opioid crisis in Alberta requires a coordinated approach from government, Alberta Health Services, regulated health professionals, and others. Pharmacists are front line health providers working closely with individuals prescribed opiates, in particular those who have the potential for dependence, misuse, addiction, and diversion. Pharmacists are often the most accessible members of individuals’ healthcare team and play a vital role in their medication assessment and management. This includes many strategies including harm reduction.
It is essential that pharmacists adequately assess and monitor individuals using opioid medications and work collaboratively within multidisciplinary teams to optimize health outcomes and minimize harm.
The Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians provide a framework for appropriate patient care however, due to the complexity of opioid use, additional guidance and interpretation of the Standards is required.
Adherence to the following guidelines, based on the Standards, is an expectation of practice.
Information for the public
Why is my pharmacist asking me about my medications?
Among other things, your pharmacist is here to support you in managing drug therapy. Your pharmacist considers a variety of information including the conditions you are treated for, the symptoms you are experiencing, medications you are taking, laboratory results, and lifestyle factors to determine if drug therapy is safe and effective for you. Your pharmacist’s goal is to ensure that you get the right medications to achieve your health goals and support you in using them properly, while minimizing the possibility and impact of unwanted effects.
Pharmacists are an important part of your healthcare team, and as outlined in our Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians, they work collaboratively with other health professionals, such as physicians, to help ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment for you. Often, this includes discussion about other health and lifestyle measures. Sometimes, the answer may be not using medications at all.
I’ve heard a lot about opioids lately. Why are opioid medications a concern?
Opioid medications are used to treat certain types of severe pain, most often when treating pain resulting from surgery or cancer. If pain results from other causes, there may be other alternatives that work better or have less risk associated with them. If opioids are not needed, they should be avoided, as the longer they are taken, the more risk may be associated with them.
Anyone taking an opioid medication can develop dependence over time. This is a known risk of the medication, and is not the fault of individuals using them.
Pharmacists are medication management experts. Discuss your health and medication needs with your pharmacist. If you require additional privacy, ask to have your discussion in a private location at the pharmacy.
- Guidance for Assessment and Monitoring: Individuals Using Opioid Medications
- Opioid FAQs
- Providing naloxone as an unscheduled drug: Guidelines for pharmacy teams
- Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (ODT)
- Resources for Pharmacists
- Resources for the Public