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5 Tips on Using Painkillers and Opioids Safely

A group of prescription pill bottles containing painkillers sits on a counter.
Painkillers are best used for short periods of time, such as when recovering from surgery or an injury.

Everybody hurts at some point in their life.

As dangerous as they can be, drugs like Vicodin and Percocet definitely have their place in helping people manage pain. But how much is too much? And what is the right way to take them?

It is possible to take painkillers safely and responsibly, but it does take a bit of mental preparation and planning. Here are five rules for your loved one to follow to minimize his or her risk of addiction, as well as other possible adverse effects of painkillers.

5 Tips on Using Painkillers and Opioids Safely

  1. Work closely with your doctor. It’s critical that the doctor treating your loved one is aware of any substance abuse in the family, including legal drugs like alcohol and cigarettes. The more history of addiction there is in your family, the more likely it is that your loved one will have an issue taking painkillers responsibly.
  2. Use for short-term pain only. Painkillers are not recommended for most kinds of chronic pain.
  3. Take exactly as prescribed. That means at the specific times and doses your doctor advises. You should never crush or chew pills—or delay taking a pill so that you can take more later.
  4. Don’t drink or take other drugs. Both alcohol and prescription painkillers work by depressing the nervous system, which can cause breathing problems and even accidental overdose. Make sure you consult your doctor before taking any other medications.
  5. Have a plan to stop taking pills. Assess your pain level and stop taking prescription painkillers as soon as you can. Work with your doctor to taper off the pills, if necessary, and consider other options for the management of chronic pain.

Bonus Tip on Taking Painkillers Safely

Be aware of the warning signs of addiction. Doctor shopping, ordering painkillers off the internet and buying them on the street are obvious signs of addiction. Another red flag is when a patient asks for a higher dose, even though his or her pain is under control.

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The Long-Term Effects of Painkiller Use

One of the biggest risks, of course, is developing an addiction. But prescription painkillers have the potential to damage the liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines as well.

The drugs can also increase the risk of developing major depression, according to a 2013 study done by the Saint Louis University Medical Center. The study found that patients who remained on opioids for 180 days or longer were at a 53 percent increased risk of developing depression.

Additional Precautions You Should Take when Taking Opioids

But caution should be taken with any pain-relieving drug, including OTC painkillers that contain acetaminophen, which has the potential to damage the liver. Experts advise not taking more than 3,000 to 4,000 mg a day. The important thing to note is that it’s not just Tylenol you have to be careful with. More than 600 products contain acetaminophen, including many cold and flu medications.

The bottom line? It’s important to be careful with any medication, whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription.

If your loved one is struggling with pain, a good doctor should be able to help him or her get a handle on it—in a way that’s safe and healthy. In much the same way, if your loved one is struggling with addiction, he or she will need professional help to get better.

Hope at The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes in a comprehensive approach to recovery. Breaking free from addiction is not just about giving something up. It’s about building hope for a new and vastly better life. Fill out our form or call today to learn more about our painkiller addiction treatment program.

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