Pain Medications Mistake No. 3: Drinking While Taking Pain Drugs
Pain medications and alcohol generally enhance each other's effect. That's why many of these prescription medications carry a "no alcohol" sticker.
That sticker shows a martini glass covered by the international "No" sign of a circle with a slash. But it applies to wine and beer just as much as it does to spirits.
"A common misperception is people see that sticker and think, 'I'm OK as long as I don't drink liquor -- I can have a beer.' But no alcohol means no alcohol," Binaso says.
"The patient should heed that alcohol warning, because it can be a major problem if they do not," Haynes says. "Alcohol can make you inebriated, and some pain medications can make you have that feeling as well. You can easily get yourself into trouble."
Drinking alcohol can be a problem even with over-the-counter pain drugs.
Pain Medications Mistake No. 4: Drug Interactions
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.
You should give your doctor a complete list of all the drugs, herbs, and supplements you take -- before getting any prescription.
If buying over-the-counter medications, Binaso recommends showing a list of everything else you're taking to the pharmacist.
Pain Medications Mistake No. 5: Drugged Driving
Pain medications can make you drowsy. Different people react differently to different drugs.
"How I react to a pain medication is different from how you react," Binaso says. "It may not make me drowsy, but may make you drowsy. So I recommend trying it at home first, and see how you feel. Don't take two pills and go out driving."
Pain Medications Mistake No. 6: Sharing Prescription Medicines
Unfortunately, it's very common for people to share prescription medications with friends, relatives, and co-workers. Not smart, Haynes and Binaso say -- particularly when it comes to pain medications.
"If a fairly healthy person is taking a medicine because she is in pain, and wants to give some pills to Uncle Joe because he is hurting -- well, this is a potential problem," Haynes says. "Uncle Joe may have a problem that keeps his body from eliminating the drug, or he may have an allergic reaction, or the drug may interact with a medication he is taking, with life-threatening results."
Pain Medications Mistake No. 7: Not Talking to the Pharmacist
It's not easy to read drug labels, even if you can make out the small print. If you have a question about either a prescription or OTC drug, ask the pharmacist.
"That's why I'm in the store," Binaso says. "You may have to wait a couple of minutes for me to finish what I'm doing. But you'll get the information you need to take the right medicine the right way. Just say, 'Tell me about this medicine; what should I be on the lookout for?'"