When you need to take pain relief medicine, it’s important to know how to take it safely.
Safety isn’t optional when it comes to medication. If you don’t take your meds the right way, you can find yourself on the road to addiction, disease, and even death. With certain meds, just one mistake can be fatal, even if you eat healthy, exercise, and take care of yourself.
Fortunately, the medical community makes the safety information you need readily available. Although your healthcare providers should give you this information, you’re also responsible for educating yourself. That’s why we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to taking pain relief medicine safely.
You should always consult with a healthcare professional before taking pain relief medicine, or combining it with other medications. However, if you have questions, this guide will get you started – read on to learn more.
A Short Guide to Pain Relief Medicine
First, let’s take a look at some of the common types of pain relievers you may be taking.
Over-the-counter or OTC medicines are among the most common ways to relieve pain. However, they can be dangerous if taken without care.
These medications are best for minor pain relief, such as taking care of headaches, muscle cramps, and the symptoms of the flu or a cold.
OTC medicine consists of two basic types of pain relievers: acetaminophen and NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Acetaminophen is typically used in cough suppressants, cold medicines, and general pain relievers. NSAIDs can reduce fever, as well as relieving minor pain. Naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are all well-known NSAIDs.
For more severe or chronic pain, you’ll likely be prescribed medication.
Prescription pain relief medicine includes both opioids and non-opioids. Opioids come from opium, so they are incredibly powerful and can be dangerous if not used carefully. These drugs attach to a receptor to change the way you feel pain.
Commonly used prescription opioids include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
Non-opioid pain relievers include prescription-strength ibuprofen and diclofenac. These pain relievers are used to treat less severe pain.
Pain Relief Medicine and Safety
How can you take these medications safely? It depends on which ones you’re taking. However, some advice is always relevant. Let’s take a look at the top ways to take pain relievers safely.
1. Use Pain Relievers As Directed
This is the single most important tip for taking pain relievers safely. When you take medications as directed, you can safely use them to manage your pain. When you don’t follow the directions, these medications can become dangerous and deadly.
Follow every instruction your healthcare provider gives you. If they give you something to measure your medication with, be sure to use it. Never adjust the dosage without consulting your doctor first.
You also can never share your medication with anyone else. A doctor always needs to determine if a medication is safe for someone to take.
Let’s take a look at some specific tips for taking the different kinds of painkillers as directed.
Although it may be tempting to take a higher dose than what’s recommended, this actually won’t relieve any more of your pain, and can actually be dangerous.
If you take too much acetaminophen, the complications include liver damage and eventual death. If you drink three or more alcoholic beverages each day, the risk for liver damage goes up substantially.
It’s also important to take extra care if providing acetaminophen to children. Carefully read the label and follow all of the instructions, especially for infants.
Taking too much of these medications can result in stomach ulcers and bleeding. If you’re over 60, take steroids, take blood thinners, have a history of stomach ulcers or bleeding, or have other bleeding issues, the chances of this complication go up.
Improper use of NSAIDs can also result in kidney damage. This risk also increases if you’re over 60, take diuretics, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or have kidney disease.
Opioids can cause drowsiness. If you need to drive or operate machinery, avoid the use of opioids. Also, keep in mind that proper dosage depends on the individual. A dose that’s safe for you could be an overdose for someone else, especially a child.
2. Understand the Ingredients
You can approach pain relief medicine with safety if you understand the active ingredients in whatever you’re taking.
One common issue with pain relief medication is that drugs sold for different uses may have the same active ingredient. If you combine these drugs without realizing that the active ingredient is the same for each one, you put yourself at risk for an overdose.
Always avoid taking more than one medication with the same active ingredient at the same time. Even OTC medicines have their active ingredients listed on the package. With prescription drugs, the ingredients are found on the label of the container.
3. Ask Questions
If you’re using OTC medication, you should still ask your doctor or pharmacist any questions you may have about using it properly. If you already medications, or take supplements, always check with a healthcare professional before adding new medications to the mix.
4. Avoid Abuse
Abuse of opioid pain relievers is incredibly common. You may never abuse the drugs, but you also need to make sure not to leave them in a place where other people can access them and misuse them.
Take care that your opioid medications are secured so they can’t be stolen. If you have a history of substance abuse, be sure to let your doctor know.
Be careful not to mix certain drugs with alcohol. Mixing Klonopin and alcohol, opioids and alcohol, or other drugs can have serious negative consequences.
5. Don’t Change Your Pills
Don’t cut, crush, break, or otherwise tamper with your pills before taking them unless it’s okayed by a healthcare professional.
Some capsules have coatings to help them be released at the proper time. Tampering can cause the medication to be released at a point when it’s more harmful than beneficial.
If you think you’ll need to cut down on your dosage, be sure to ask your doctor if it’s okay to cut or break apart your pills.
6. Clean Pill Cutters and Crushers
If a doctor does advise you to cut up or crush your pills, always clean the cutter or crusher before using it again. Otherwise, residue of the drug can affect your dosage.
Safe Pain Relief Options
These pain medications can be effective and safe when you follow these tips.
However, there are other safe pain relief options that can help some people. Legal marijuana is growing as a viable pain relief medicine – learn more here.