Pain Pills: Are You Taking Yours The Right Way?

( — Your back. Your knees. Your aching head. Very few people make it through life without suffering from some sort of pain…or without taking medication to help, at least temporarily, relieve pain symptoms.

Maybe because there are so many pains, and so many pills, out there, there are quite a few mistakes that many people make while taking their medicine.

Here’s a list of some of the most common pain pill mistakes…and how to better avoid making them.

1. Doubling Up On Your Meds

Doctors prescribe pain pills at specific doses for a reason – to offer the greatest amount of pain relief with the least amount of risk. Doubling or tripling that dose won’t make you feel better faster/longer. But doing this can certainly make you feel some harmful side effects. With some pain drugs, if you take additional doses, it makes the first dose not work as well. And with others, you’ll end up in the emergency room.

Another bad idea is trying to boost the effect of one kind of pain pill by taking another, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, without consulting with a doctor first.

Be smart: Before leaving the doctor’s office, ask if you can take an extra pill if you still hurt. Ask what the upper limit for the medication is. After taking the medication, and after you’ve given it enough time to work, and it still does not control your pain, see your doctor about why you’re still hurting.

2. Overdosing On Multiple Prescriptions

People often take their drugs without reading the label. Some may also be taking additional medications at the same time. Which means not only do many people not know exactly what they’re taking, they may be getting an overdose of the same medicine by taking a bunch of pills with similar ingredients.

Be smart: Read the labels of all your medications. If you have questions about anything you see, or if you forgot to mention that you’re also taking other pills, even just herbal supplements, at the same time, be sure to talk to a pharmacist or a doctor.

3. Mixing Alcohol With Pain Meds

Pain medications and alcohol generally enhance each other’s effects. Which is why many prescription medication labels warn you to not drink while taking them. Experts say that another common alcohol-related mistake is thinking that as long as no hard liquor is consummed, such as bourbon or vodka, beer and wine are still okay to drink while you’re taking medication.

Be smart: No alcohol means no alcohol. Consuming it while taking medication can create major problems and put your body in serious danger.

4. Not Telling You’re Doctor What Else You’re Taking

Before taking any pain pill, think about what other medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements you are taking. Some of these drugs and supplements may interact with pain medications or increase the risk of side effects.

For example, aspirin can affect the action of some non-insulin diabetes drugs; codeine and oxycodone can interfere with antidepressants.

Be smart: Give your doctor a complete list of all the drugs, herbs, and supplements you take before getting any prescription. If you’re buying over-the-counter medications, or you forgot to mention something to your doctor before they prescribed your medicine, show a pharmacist a list of everything you’re taking.

5. Driving While Drugged Up

Pain medications can make you drowsy, or make your body respond in ways that it normally would not. Also, different people react differently to different drugs.

Be smart: Take your medication at home first and see how you feel. Then use that information to better judge if it’s safe or not for you to be behind the wheel after you’ve taken your medication.

6. Sharing Drugs

It’s very common for people to share prescription medications with friends, relatives, and co-workers. But pill-sharing can be disasterous. Why? Because different people have different health needs. If one person who is otherwise healthy has been given a particular prescription, someone else who shares those pills may unwittingly put themselves in a life-threatening situation due to a health problem or allergic reaction that is incompatible with the shared pills.

Be smart: Prescriptions are only meant to be taken by the patient whose name is on the label. Doctors take many factors into consideration when prescribing drugs, so if they are shared with someone who has different health needs, the pills can actually be dangerous for them. Never share drugs!

7. Never Talking to a Pharmacist

It’s not easy to read drug labels, even if you can make out the small print. Or, you may simply have questions that you don’t know the answers to, such as how a daily supplement you’re taking may interact with your medication. If you have a question about either a prescription or an OTC (over-the-counter) drug, ask the pharmacist.

Be smart: The pharmacist isn’t just there to hand you drugs – they are doctors, too, and part of their job is to answer questions. Yes, sometimes you may have to wait a few minutes, but you’ll get the information you need to take the right medicine the right way. Just ask “Please tell me about this medicine,” or “What should I be aware of when taking this medicine?”

8. Continuing To Use Expired Pills

Why? Pills stored at home start breaking down soon after their expiration date. That’s especially true of drugs kept in the moist environment of the bathroom medicine cabinet. If you take drugs that have expired, either they won’t work as well as they should, or you may end up in the emergency room because of a reaction to a breakdown product.

Be smart: Throw your drugs away after the expiration date. Always. Another reason to toss them quickly? Teen drug abuse, especially involving pain medication, is on the rise today, and it’s not uncommon for kids to go to their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets and take whatever pills they can find.

9. Chopping Up Pills The Wrong Way

Did you know that pills don’t work the way they’re supposed to when taken apart the wrong way?

Scored pills should only be cut across the line. Those without scoring should not be cut at all, unless a doctor specifically instructs you to do so.

Be smart: Pay close attention to how you should be breaking apart pills – or if you should do this at all.

As with any of the above, or any other, medication questions you may have, always feel free to consult with your doctor or a pharmacist. That’s what they’re there for.