Common Deadly Mistakes Made When Taking Pain Medication

Kay Van Wey shares nine common mistakes made while taking pain pills.

Accidental Deaths Occur Daily

Pain pill addiction and overdosing have become an epidemic in the United States. In many instances, serious injury or death occurs when mistakes are made by those who are taking their pain medication prescribed to them for the right reasons, and not abusing drugs in any way. Some of these mistakes are, unfortunately, causing accidental deaths that could be avoided.

I came across an article on WebMD recently that touched on some pain medication mistakes that people commonly make. The list was compiled by pharmacist Kristen A. Binaso (spokeswoman for the America Pharmacists Association), and pain specialist Eric R. Haynes, MD (founder of Comprehensive Pain Management Partners in Trinity, Florida).

Avoid These Mistakes to Stay Safe

In an attempt to spread the awareness of these preventable mistakes that are killing people, I am recapping the mistakes and spreading the news. Please continue to share this news with friends and loved ones to help save lives. Here are nine mistakes to avoid:

  1. The belief that if one pill feels good, two must be better. Only take the recommended or prescribed dosage of medication given by your doctor, or you could suffer serious adverse effects, or even death. Another common mistake is taking another type of pain pill in an attempt to rid pain. Certain combinations can be deadly.
  2. Duplication overdosing. People who take over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs without reading the label are putting themselves at risk for injury. If another drug is taken, and you don’t realize you are doubling the dosage of an ingredient by taking this other drug, an overdose could occur.
  3. Drinking while taking medications that warn against it. If the label on your prescription medication displays a “no alcohol” symbol (an image of a martini glass with a slash through it), you should avoid drinking beer, wine or liquor.
  4. Drug interactions. Before you take a pain pill, you need to be aware of any other medications, herbs or supplements you are taking. The wrong combination can be dangerous, and possibly even deadly. Talk to your pharmacist and make sure your doctor knows all medications you are taking before another is prescribed.
  5. Drugged driving. Avoid driving while taking pain medication. You are risking your life and the lives of others.
  6. Sharing prescription pain medications with family or friends. Unfortunately, this is quite common and can be very serious. The person you share with may have a problem or an allergic reaction to the drug you give them that you may not be aware of. This could be life threatening.
  7. Not talking to the pharmacist about your medication. Ask your pharmacist if there are any symptoms you should look out for while taking your medication. Reading the labels on pill bottles can be confusing and your pharmacist can clear up any questions you may have.
  8. Keeping expired drugs around. Were you aware that once pills pass their expiration date, they begin to break down? Taking outdated medication is a common mistake that lands many people in the emergency room. You could have a negative reaction to a breakdown product that can be very dangerous. Throw out unused, expired drugs.
  9. Breaking unbreakable pills. When pills are dismantled the incorrect way, the pill may not work, or it may harm you. If a pill doesn’t have a score mark across it, don’t cut it!

Communicate with Health Professionals

It is my hope that you maintain open lines of communication with your doctor and your pharmacist so that you can take the precautions necessary for taking medication safely. Do your research, be aware of the dangers, and avoid these nine mistakes that can mean the difference between life and death.

photo credit: Ivanka Majic via photopin cc

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Painkiller Overdoses Affecting More Women than Men

The United States consumes over 90% of the world’s supply of prescription painkillers. But Why? Does the U.S. account for over 90% of the pain in the world? The answers to why the U.S. is in the grips of a national pain killer addiction epidemic are multi-factoral and complex.

Overdose  deaths from prescription drug overdoses has surpassed deaths from illicit street drugs. New powerful painkillers are being put onto the market and the corporate healthcare  and pharmaceutical industry is making millions as a result.

Although media attention has focused a lot recently on the epidemic of prescription drug overdoses,  the problem only  continues to increase throughout the U.S. The use of prescription painkillers is on the rise and this is leading to more preventable deaths. Unfortunately, the problem is impacting women especially.

Between the years of 1999 and 2010, almost 48,000 women died as a result of painkiller overdoses. Those deaths have risen at a rate of 400 percent for women, while painkiller deaths for men have only risen by 265 percent. What this breaks down to, according to the CDC, is the tragic fact that 18 women are dying every day as a result of painkiller overdoses.

 Healthcare Providers Can Do More

Healthcare providers can certainly do more to put a stop to the problem by acknowledging it, following guidelines on prescribing painkillers, and conducting regular reviews of the patients under their care. Prescription drug monitoring programs already exist and can be critical for giving providers details about situations outside the norm that could warrant intervention.

Part of the problem stems from unscrupulous doctors prescribing drugs for reasons other than a legitimate medical problem. In addition, we have learned much about  the causes of  prescription drug abuse .  Addiction is a brain disease and it can rob the addicted person of the cognitive ability to make good choices. That is why it is even more important for health care providers to be vigilant.

Although the War on Drugs focused on other kinds of drugs in the past, the spotlight on prescription drugs is relatively recent.

Dangers and Side Effects

There are major dangers in using a drug for the wrong purpose, and many people may not be aware of these dangers. Many prescription drugs are known for having adverse effects for users. In an appropriate scenario, a physician would be watching over these side effects and providing treatment and insight to the individual. There are well known indicators to alert healthcare providers when prescription drugs are being misused. However, when there is no medical oversight,  the chances that an addicted patient will overdose or die increases greatly.

Physicians are not the only problem. When a person is self-medicating without the guidance of a doctor, he or she is more likely to make mistakes that could result in an overdose or death. Simply not understanding the risks and proper usage of such medications can really put a user at risk.

Addiction to Painkillers Happens Quickly

Drug dependence with painkillers has also been evidenced through research, showing a dangerous link between prescription drugs and overdoses.  Many of the painkillers on the market today are highly addictive. In some cases, the painkillers mimic the effects of heroin and other highly addictive drugs. In some instances, persons who have become addicted to painkillers have switched addictions and moved on to illegal drugs, such as heroin.

There are numerous steps that can be taken at the federal, state, provider, and individual level that can alleviate the negative impact of so many women overdosing on painkillers.

  • Stricter controls must  employed to make it harder to get these medications.
  • Physicians must  education  themselves about how to screen for addiction and misuse.
  • Physicians must stick to only prescribing painkillers for demonstrated medical need.
  • Patients need to be educated about the risk of addiction, overdose and death.  

Painkillers Have Their Place

Patients who are legitimately prescribed painkillers, and choose to take them properly for a certain amount of time may  benefit from them. It is very important to take them only as prescribed and to be completely honest with your doctor if you feel yourself beginning to crave the drug.

Make sure that if you have used painkillers in the past and have kept them in the home to instead find a safe way to dispose of them. This way, they won’t be stolen by an abuser or accidentally located by a child.

 In the course of my practice, I have seen far too many tragic cases. There seems to be a misperception that only bad people get addicted or die of drug overdoses, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have represented many wonderful people, whose lives were destroyed by addiction and I have litigated cases on behalf of  many fine families whose loved one accidentally overdosed and died. This problem affects everyone. PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD!

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