Pain Medications Mistake No. 2: Duplication Overdose
People often take over-the-counter pain drugs -- and even prescription pain drugs -- without reading the label. That means they often don't know which drugs they're taking. That's never a good idea.
And if they take another over-the-counter drug -- either for extra pain relief or for other reasons -- they may be getting an overdose. That's because many OTC drugs are combination pills that carry a full dose of pain pill ingredients.
In Joe's case, he's taken a prescription pain pill that contains acetaminophen along with a second full dose of acetaminophen from Tylenol, putting him at risk of injury.
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.