Medication Safety can be a challenge for all those taking one or more medications on a daily basis and especially for those in chronic pain. Not only do chronic pain sufferers take medications, some of their medication usage may involve Opioids. According to the CDC, In the USA, adverse drug events account for over 1 million emergency room visits and 280,000 hospitalizations each year! In 2015, there were 33,000 deaths due to prescription opioid use and heroin use. Half of those deaths were directly related to prescription opioid overdoses. These statistics blow my mind! In fact in the USA 82% of adults take at least one medication per day and 29% of adults take 5 or more medications per day! You can see why medication safety is so important!
Below is a list of things that you should be aware of in regards to medication safety.
- Medication interactions with food, supplements and other over the counter drugs can occur. It is always best to read the safety pamphlet attached to all your medications. Also, make sure to take the medications as prescribed or make sure you follow the directions. Should you have any questions, ask the pharmacist, they seem to be the ones most trained in pharmaceuticals.
- Understanding when and how to take your medication is important. Do you know if you should take your medication with or without food.
- Become familiar with your medication and be able to visually identify it. Sometimes your pharmacy may switch manufacturers and that can change the way your medication looks. If you notice a change in color or size of your medication, double check with your pharmacist to verify it is the correct medication and dosage.
- Store your medications and delivery devices if you use one, in a safe place. You should also make sure to keep your medications away from heat, moisture and light. Keeping them in a kitchen or bathroom cabinet is always a good idea. You also want to make sure you choose a place that is not accessible to children and away from pets.
- Keep track of your pain medications, especially opioids, at all times. Make sure they do not fall into the hands of others.
- When traveling make sure you have enough medication with you. Many people advise you to take exactly what you need. I feel due to delays that can occur when you travel, it is best to take a few extra days with you.
- Properly dispose of your medication. You can utilize the medication take-back program in your local area or use the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) authorized collectors. If these options are not available you can dispose of them in your household trash or flush them down the toilet. For more information on disposing medications yourself, visit the FDA’s website.
Narcotics / Opioids
For many chronic pain sufferers not only do they have to worry about generalized medication safety, they have to live with the stigma that has developed with chronic pain and the use of narcotics / opioids. Opioids and/or Narcotics were originally developed to assist individuals with acute conditions making them available for short term use. Currently many chronic pain patients take opioids or narcotics and many feel that this has lead to the increase in the number of deaths associated with prescription overdoses. Taking opioids for more than 4 weeks can lead to the development of a tolerance which causes more medication to be needed by individuals. It is a very much debated topic with the FDA, to learn more about proposed legislation, click here.
The ACPA has a great guide called the Consumer Guide to Pain Medications and Treatments, you can read. They also have a public service video on Opioid Safety. There is also an initiative “When Good Medicines Become Bad Drugs” that provides information on this current concern. I can not stress the importance of taking your medication as directed. Pharmacists are here to answer your questions about potential interactions and how to take your medication. Also please make sure to store your medications securely.