How to Take Painkillers Safely

Painkillers are our best friends because they are cheap and are readily available at the nearest pharmacy whenever we have headaches, menstrual cramps, toothaches, and body pain. But this friend becomes a silent killer when taken too often and at wrong doses, so it’s not unusual to hear news about cases of overdoses and addiction.

So how can you use painkillers safely without overdosing or getting too dependent?

Types of Painkillers
There are three types of painkillers or analgesics that can be brought over the counter or given only with a prescription from the doctor. Painkillers can be taken through the mouth in the form of tablets, capsules, and liquids; administered through injection; applied topically using ointments and creams; or given to the patient as suppositories.

1. Paracetamol
Paracetamol is valued for its mild or non-existing side effects, but this is a misconception because you can overdose on paracetamol. There are sad cases of overdosing which led to liver failure after taking paracetamol at high quantities over a long period of time. People who experience chronic pain such as migraine should be careful not to become too dependent on painkillers for relief.

2. Aspirin and NSAIDs
Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended for mild to moderate body pains and is also used to lower temperature and relieve inflammation. These are prescribed to people who suffer common ailments such as fever, headache, dysmenorrhea, arthritis, trauma, and others. Aspirin is valued for its blood-thinning effects and antipyretic qualities, but be careful not to exceed the daily maximum dosage of aspirin because they can cause stomach ulcers. NSAIDs on the other hand are used for musco-skeletal pain and are distinct from steroids. You should never combine NSAIDs with other NSAIDs, however, because an overdose can also cause stomach ulcers. Examples of NSAIDs are naproxen, ibuprofen, and diclofenac.

3. Opioids
Opioids are used to treat chronic pain and specifically target the opioid receptors in the spinal cord and brain. They can be combined with other painkillers to target different receptors and are classified based on their overall effect. Low-efficacy opioids are used for light to moderate pain, but it can cause sedation. Moderate-efficacy opioids are recommended for treating moderate pain, but should never be taken with other medication for the central nervous system, alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills. Strong-efficacy opioids are usually given to the person by injection to relieve severe pain, but should never be combined with other opioids because of the nasty side effects. Examples of opioids are codeine, dihydrocodeine, oxycodone, morphine, tramadol, and pethidine.

How to Take Painkillers Properly
Remember the following points when taking painkillers, especially if you’re suffering from chronic pain:

• Always consult your doctor and follow instructions carefully.
• Never combine drugs or switch to another painkiller without asking your doctor.
• Don’t wait until the pain becomes too severe to start taking your medication.
• Take note of all the side effects of the medication.
• Don’t drink or smoke when you’re on medication.
• Don’t hoard medicine and throw away expired drugs.

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