Using Pain Medicine Safely

We know that medicine affects people in different ways. We also know that pain can change over time. Whether this is your first time taking a pain medicine or you have taken one in the past, it is important to take a look at how it might affect you now.

Pain Medicine

With all medicine, it is important to talk to a health care provider and pharmacist about how to use it safely. They will ask about the type of pain you are feeling, other conditions you have, other medicines, vitamins, herbal remedies, your age and health history. This will help your doctor decide which medicine may be best and can help reduce unwanted side effects. A pharmacist is a good resource to answer questions about prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines.

Types of Pain Medicine

Acetaminophen can be a good medicine to try first. It is typically safe for many people. However, it is important to track the amount you take in a day because other medicines can also include acetaminophen. People who have three or more drinks every day while using this product may have negative side effects. 

NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, should be used with caution and for the shortest time possible. NSAIDs should only be used when other medicines have not worked or goals have not been met.

Prescription opioids, such as codeine, morphine and hydrocodone, can be considered for those with moderate-to-severe pain or who are unable to perform a large number of everyday activities. Prescription opioids are strong pain reducing medicines. Opioids have powerful effects on the brain and body. They can help treat pain when taken for a short time and as directed by a health care provider. But they can lead to misuse. Prescription opioids have several risks and side effects, such as constipation, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, dizziness and confusion.

If you are prescribed a pain medicine it is important to take it as directed. Taking medicine safely means:

  • Following instructions
  • Using the right amount
  • Taking medicines on time
  • Telling a doctor or pharmacist if you have any trouble
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • Talking with your provider before stopping any medicine
  • Not sharing medicines
  • Safely storing medicines to prevent misuse and accidents
  • Not saving medicines for future use
  • Properly disposing of leftover medicines

Not taking medicine as instructed may lead to a condition getting worse, going to the hospital or even death.

To learn more about how to use medicines safely, visit the National Institute on Aging.

Prescribing Law Changes 

Many of us have heard about the opioid crisis. What started for so many people as a treatment for pain, has led to unintended opioid prescription misuse, addiction, and overdose. Efforts across the country are trying to protect people from the potential dangerous effects of prescription opioid misuse. 

Recent law changes in Florida lowered the number and strength of prescription opioid medicines our providers can prescribe each person for acute pain. Visit the Florida Department of Health’s website to learn more and see if law changes could affect you.  

Impact of Aging

Medicine works differently in older adults. Changes in the body as we age affect medicine. Side effects of medicine can increase or be worse. They may also not work as well depending on your health conditions or if you take many medicines. When taking medicine, start at low doses and make changes slowly with the help of a provider. 

To learn more, visit Health in Aging on how medicines work differently in older adults.

Be Prepared

Your provider will ask about the type of pain you are feeling, other conditions, medicines, vitamins, herbs, home remedies, your age and health history. This will help your provider share ideas on which medicines may be best for you or if you need to visit a pain management specialist. Be prepared by making a list of your medicines, vitamins and supplements you are taking, along with the dose and how often you take them. A Medicine Chart can help you keep track.