For patients experiencing severe or chronic pain, opioid pain medication can be an effective course of treatment. These powerful pain relievers have been proven effective at treating a wide range of severe pain symptoms, and often represent a way for patients to resume a more active life. Opioids do come with their share of side effects, however, but due to their nature as powerful medications they can be severe and dangerous to patients who use their medication improperly. Therefore, it is imperative that patients properly and safely use opioid pain medication as they are prescribed; to do that, patients should keep in mind the following things:
1. Only Take Opioids You’ve Been Prescribed
Your doctor has prescribed opioids as part of a pain treatment plan that’s been tailored specifically to you; never take an opioid prescribed to somebody else, as different medications can cause different reactions.
2. Stick to the Proper Doses
In a similar vein, your tailored pain treatment plan has very specific intervals and dosages that you shouldn’t adjust without first consulting your doctor. If you begin to experience opioid tolerance – a documented side effect that can result in the reduced effectiveness of the drug – it may seem like it’s okay to double up a dosage or two, but this can be dangerous. Opioids are powerful drugs, and sticking to the proper, prescribed dosages is the best way to avoid adverse effects. Consult your doctor rather than determining by yourself to double the dosage.
3. A Dangerous Mixture
Drug interactions where opioids are concerned can be exceedingly dangerous – and sometimes fatal. Patients should not take other medications, such as sleep aids or anti-anxiety medication, along with opioid pain medication unless it has been cleared by the prescribing doctor. Additionally, don’t drink alcohol unless your opioid prescriber gives you the okay – and be prepared for the alcohol to have a much greater effect on you than it would if you were not taking opioids.
4. Talk To Your Doctor
While opioids can be dangerous, much of the danger can be mitigated by simply talking with your doctor ahead of time. Tell your doctor about any and all medications you are taking to reduce the risk of harmful drug interactions. Patients should also discuss their family medical history, including any history of drug or alcohol abuse in their own history or their family’s, in order to best ensure against opioid addiction. Opioid pain medication is safe and effective, and the best way to keep it safe and effective is to talk to your doctor at every step along the way, making sure the doctor has all the information needed to give you the best advice possible.
5. Keep Track of Your Medications
As stated earlier, doctors prescribe opioids as part of a pain treatment plan that has precise dosages and intervals. Keep track of when you take each dose, preferably written down. Patients should also get in the habit of keeping their medications in the same place, preferably locked up somewhere safe. You should never have to ask yourself where your medication is, or when the last time you took a dose was.
6. Store Your Medications Somewhere Safe
Keeping your medications in a safe place can help you keep track of them, but it has an added, highly important, safety benefit: keeping bystanders safe. Medications should be locked up in order to keep pets and children from finding them and accidentally taking a dose, as well as to discourage those who might want to sell them. Additionally, if you lose or misplace your medications, or they are stolen, most health care providers will not replace them. Prevent these events from happening ahead of time by storing the opioids safely and securely. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.
7. Do not keep old medications
One of the ways that legitimately prescribed medications get into the hands of children and others is theft. Thieves go straight to drug cabinets. Having a large store of old unused medication in a drug cabinet is a great way to inadvertently become a supplier to the street. Keep only the medications you need and ask your doctor or pharmacist how to destroy unneeded medication.
Opioids are safe, powerful pain treatment medications – but improper use is highly dangerous. Remember to always to follow these safety tips, as well as any other instructions from your doctor, for the best and safest results.