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Are Painkillers Safe to Take as Directed?

Are Painkillers Safe to Take as Directed?

You can take prescription painkillers safely as long as you follow your physician’s instructions

Prescription drug abuse is a major problem in today’s culture. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, doctors prescribed enough painkillers in 2010 to medicate every American adult every four hours for an entire month. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that almost 75 percent of prescription drug overdoses involve painkillers. These opioid drugs caused almost 15,000 deaths in 2008 alone, more than cocaine and heroin overdose combined.

Common prescription painkillers San Diego residents should be aware of include:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone, Oxect, Percocet, Tylox)
  • Morphine Apokyn, Avinza, Kadian, MS-Contin)
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic, Actiq, Fentora, Abstral, Lazanda)
  • Codeine (Fiorinal, Fioricet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Zydone, Norco, Reprexain)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

The National Office of Drug Control Policy reported that nearly one-third of people who abused drugs for the first time in 2009 began by abusing a prescription drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over five million people abuse prescription drugs in 2010. Given the statistics surrounding painkillers, you may wonder if they are safe to take? The answer is yes, but only under certain conditions.

Taking Painkillers Safely

Your doctor will only prescribe a prescription painkiller if he or she believes that the benefits outweigh the risks of abuse. With any drug, addiction to painkillers can take place. However, by taking the following precautions, you should be able to take a prescription painkiller safely.

Safe use of painkillers includes:

Taking the dosage prescribed. Your doctor has prescribed the medication in a dosage that is safe for you to take given your weight and body’s metabolism. If the dosage does not bring relief, do not just take more than prescribed. This could lead to dependence or abuse. Instead, talk with your physician about increasing the dosage or switching to another prescription.

Taking the medicine on schedule. If you are taking the painkillers for relief after surgery, be sure to take the medication on a regular routine. If you wait too long between dosages, you may experience increased pain. On the other hand, do not take the medication more often than prescribed. This could also lead to dependence or abuse. If the pain is not under control, talk to your physician.

Limit the usage. Take painkillers only as long as you experience symptoms and for the shortest time possible. Request fewer painkillers (for two or three days) instead of a two- or three-week supply. This will guard against possible abuse.

Don’t mix painkillers. Prescription opioids should never be combined with alcohol. Furthermore, other medications, especially CNS (central nervous system) depressants, could interact with the painkillers. Before you take any painkillers, make sure your doctor knows about the other medications you are taking and ask questions about interactions with other drugs, including over-the-counter medications.

Consider alternative options. You can talk with your doctor about other options that may deal with your pain more effectively, especially if you are trying to manage chronic pain (back or neck pain, for example). Yoga, meditation, exercise, massage and other non-pharmaceutical forms of treatment can often bring pain relief, sometimes in conjunction with over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Advil.

Don’t share painkillers. According to a 2014 article from Health Day, 75 percent of people who abuse painkillers got them from friends or family members. It is not only illegal to share prescription drugs, but it is also very dangerous. For example, another person may be taking other medications that would cause a major problem if taken with painkillers. If a loved one is experiencing pain, take him or her to the doctor or hospital.

Dispose of medications properly. Do not keep unused pain medicine around the house. This only creates temptation for someone to use it non-medically. Instead, follow the guidelines for drug disposal developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Follow any disposal instructions on the drug labeling or take advantage of community drug take-back programs that encourage the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Most of the time, you can contact your city or county government offices to find out when and where you can dispose of medication. If you have no other alternative, remove the medications from the original packaging, mix them with an undesirable substance like kitty litter or coffee grounds, place the mixture in a sealed bag and then into the household trash.

Keep medications safe. Do not leave opioid medication out in the open. Lock it up in a secure medicine cabinet or drawer in your home. Many addicts will use painkillers stolen from family members and friends. In addition, many teenagers who abuse painkillers thought they were safe to take because they were prescriptions. Keeping the drugs locked up and away from others in the home is the safest way to ensure that loved ones do not become addicted to painkillers.

Even though prescription opioids are generally safe to take under a doctor’s supervision, you can still experience an allergic reaction to them. If you think this is happening, call your doctor immediately. In addition, if you think you may be developing dependence on the painkillers, make sure your doctor knows. He or she can prescribe a safer, less-addictive substance that can still manage your pain.

Getting Help For Your Painkiller Addiction

If you think you are struggling with a painkiller addiction, help is just a phone call away. You can call our toll free helpline any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can talk with one of our admissions coordinators about the symptoms you are experiencing. Together, you can decide what options would best meet your needs. We can even find treatment centers near San Diego that specialize in helping people overcome painkiller addiction. Call us today to start on the path of recovery.