Painkillers are an effective means of alleviating or eliminating pain. Over the counter medications such as Tylenol are effective for headaches or minor aches and pains, but if you have a more serious pain problem, then something stronger is in order.
Opioid painkillers are America’s most popular drug. Vicodin, a powerful hydrocodone combination drug is the most popular, closely followed by Percocet, another strong opioid painkiller. 128 million prescriptions for Vicodin were issued in 2010. By 2013, this figure had risen to nearly 202 million. There are clearly a lot of people in the U.S. who rely on prescription painkillers to help them get through their daily lives.
Since then, the U.S. government has tightened up legislation to try to combat the problem of prescription drug addiction. Physicians can no longer write out a prescription for a 6-month supply. Instead, patients are required to make an appointment every three months to receive a fresh supply of the drug.
With so many people using powerful painkillers, it’s not surprising that addiction is a massive problem. Whilst almost all of these people will have taken painkillers for a legitimate reason, plenty of patients continue taking pain pills long after the pain has gone away. So how do you avoid becoming the one in 20 people aged 12-years and over who are addicted to prescription pain pills?
Do You Need Painkillers?
Over the counter painkillers are perfectly OK for headaches and general aches and pains. If you wake up with a sore head or you have pulled a muscle, take a Tylenol. It will ease the pain and before long you should be back to your normal self. If the pain doesn’t go away, or you are struggling to sleep or carry on with normal life, make an appointment to see your physician. Do not ‘borrow’ some opioid painkillers from your husband, wife or anyone else who might have a supply. These drugs need to be taken under strict supervision by a medical professional.
How to Take Painkillers Safely
- Don’t take pills without a legitimate prescription. You should never take strong pain pills without a prescription from your doctor. Opioids are extremely addictive and popping pills for no good reason is never going to end well. If your medical condition warrants a prescription for painkillers, your doctor will prescribe them in the recommended dose.
- Know your history. Do you have a family history of addiction issues? If you have close family members with depressive illnesses, or relatives who have battled addictions to drugs or alcohol, this is a major red flag. A family history of addiction puts you at higher risk than the general population, so your doctor may advise you try a different, less addictive drug.
- Follow the dosage instructions to the letter. Always take your prescription exactly how your doctor tells you to take it. So if he says take a pill, three times a day for a week, follow his instructions. Don’t take an extra pill because you can’t sleep, as exceeding the dose is dangerous. For the same reason, don’t try to avoid taking the pills to make them last for longer, as you may need to take more at a time, which is bad for you.
- Don’t take painkillers for longer than necessary. Be honest with yourself and don’t take the pills any longer than is necessary. Painkillers such as Vicodin are designed to help people cope in exceptional circumstances; they are not designed for minor aches and pains. Of course, pain is subjective, but unless you are still in severe pain, you shouldn’t need to keep taking the pills for months on end.
Symptoms of Addiction
There are plenty of men and women in recovery centers who ignored the signs of painkiller addiction, so don’t be one of them. Be aware of the signs of painkiller addiction so you can ask your doctor for help.
The first sign that a patient has a problem is when they develop a compulsive desire to take the drug. The drug becomes something you think about from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. You can’t not have your pills, so if your regular doctor refuses to prescribe any more, you shop around for a doctor who will write a prescription.
If you suspect you, or someone you know, has a problem with prescription painkillers, you need to seek professional help. Abruptly stopping taking a powerful opioid painkiller will cause severe side effects as the drug leaves the system. This can be a life threatening situation, so don’t try to go cold turkey alone.