10 Tips for Using Painkillers Safely

Patience is a virtue. Different drugs act differently in the body. While some may be absorbed and begin working immediately, others may take longer to start working and even longer to feel the effects. It could be easy to think you need to increase the dose rather than wait for the medicine to begin working. In these cases, understanding what a drug does and how quickly it works is very important to avoid a potential overdose.

Throw out expired medications. Expired medications should be thrown away or flushed down the toilet -- anything to prevent their being ingested. Some drugs can become toxic when they are old because the chemicals in them break down or recombine with others.

Don't take medicine in the dark. If you cannot read the label on a pill bottle, do not take what is inside. Particularly if you keep all your medicines in the same place, the potential for popping a harmful dose of a prescription-strength drug instead of two Tylenols is very high. You need to be certain of what you are taking, and why, each time you open the medicine cabinet.

Don't chew, crush or break pills. While the sight of a mammoth pill is enough to make anyone gag, avoid the urge to break it into smaller, easy-to-swallow pieces. These smaller pieces can get absorbed into the body faster than they are meant to and may have effects similar to a drug overdose.

Make a crib sheet. Keep a list of all the medications you take, along with their appropriate doses, in your purse or wallet so that in case of emergency, you can tell a medical team what you have taken and why. Share the list with your doctors to keep everyone up to date.

More is not better. Taking more medications as you feel worse may seem a logical course of action, but this is very often not the case. Often, medication just conceals the underlying cause of why we are feeling ill, such as a vitamin deficiency or stress. Some doctors advise finding non-drug solutions to ease sickness or pain, such as counseling for stress or time management, seeing a nutritionist to improve eating habits or increasing physical activity. These changes can be just as effective, and longer-lasting, than getting another prescription filled at the drugstore.

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