What You Need to Know About Non-Opioid Advance Directives

When in recovery from opioid addiction, what if you get sick or injured? How will medical teams know your own wishes around opioids?

Michigan residents may now place an opioid-specific advance directive in their medical files. Advance directives tell doctors and other medical staff what your wishes are in the event that you are unable to communicate or advocate for yourself, and this form will tell doctors not to prescribe opioids except in limited circumstances.

Advance directives are not perfect. Although there is a statewide electronic repository for these forms, there is no guarantee that every hospital or medical center will check it for every patient. When possible, patients or caregivers should provide copies of advance directives before a patient undergoes a medical procedure or when changing healthcare systems. Don’t forget to share this information with dentists and oral surgeons as well.

Michigan’s non-opioid advance directive tells doctors that they should only prescribe opioids for hospice care and for medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder. Alaska, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have similar opioid-specific forms, but patients in every state can write in instructions regarding opioids to a general advance directive document.

If amending an existing advance directive in any state or creating a new one in a state without an opioid-specific form, it may be wise to review non-opioid advance directive forms from the states that do offer them: make sure that the opioid prescribing preferences you write will cover any exceptions you may need.

If you are in recovery from addiction of any kind, you may find that a non-opioid advance directive becomes part of your toolkit to protect your sobriety.

Check out Michigan’s non-opioid advance directive, and the state’s advance directive electronic repository.

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Megan Mulvaney is an MA, MPH Candidate and Public Health researcher at Workit. She’s committed to delivering evidence-based addiction treatment and brings over 11 years of experience in healthcare operations to the WorkIt team.