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A Guide to Safe Use of Pain Medicine

Use as Directed continued...

Consumers who take pain relief medications must follow their health care professional's instructions carefully. If a measuring tool is provided with your medicine, use it as directed.

Do not change the dose of your pain relief medication without talking to your doctor first.

Also, pain medications should never be shared with anyone else. Only your health care professional can decide if a prescription pain medication is safe for someone.

Here are other key points to remember.

With acetaminophen:

  • Taking a higher dose than recommended will not provide more relief and can be dangerous.
  • Too much can lead to liver damage and death. Risk for liver damage may be increased in people who drink three or more alcoholic beverages a day while using acetaminophen-containing medicines.
  • Be cautious when giving acetaminophen to children. Infant drop medications can be significantly stronger than regular children's medications. Read and follow the directions on the label every time you use a medicine. Be sure that your infant is getting the infants' pain formula and your older child is getting the children's pain formula.

With NSAIDs:

  • Too much can cause stomach bleeding. This risk increases in people who are over 60 years of age, are taking prescription blood thinners, are taking steroids, have a history of stomach bleeding or ulcers, and/or have other bleeding problems.
  • Use of NSAIDs can also cause kidney damage. This risk may increase in people who are over 60 years of age, are taking a diuretic (a drug that increases the excretion of urine), have high blood pressure, heart disease, or pre-existing kidney disease.

With opioids:

  • Use of opioids can lead to drowsiness. Do not drive or use any machinery that may injure you, especially when you first start the medication.
  • The dose of an opioid pain medication that is safe for you could be high enough to cause an overdose and death in someone else, especially children.

 

Know the Active Ingredients

A specific area of concern with OTC pain medicines is when products sold for different uses have the same active ingredient. A cold and cough remedy may have the same active ingredient as a headache remedy or a prescription pain reliever.

To minimize the risks of an accidental overdose, consumers should avoid taking multiple medications with the same active ingredient at the same time.

All OTC medicines must have all of their active ingredients listed on the package. For prescription drugs, the active ingredients are listed on the container label.

Talk with your pharmacist or another health care professional if you have questions about using OTC medicines, and especially before using them in combination with dietary supplements or other OTC or prescription medicines.

Misuse and Abuse

Misuse and abuse of pain medications can be extremely dangerous. This is especially so in regard to opioids. These medications should be stored in a place where they cannot be stolen.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA

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