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What’s in Your Medicine Cabinet?

When’s the last time you looked through your medicine cabinet?

If you look right now you’ll probably find band aids, cotton balls, eye drops, and over the counter meds.  But what about controlled substances such as pain meds? Maybe there’s an old bottle of hydrocodone from having your wisdom teeth removed or some leftover Percocet from the car accident you were in. Or maybe it’s a brand new bottle of Dilaudid prescribed for your post-operative pain. In the hospital, doctors and nurses monitor doses of meds. But once you’re home, it is up to you to take (or not take) your pain meds responsibly. With so many people becoming dependent on painkillers, it’s important to have some guidelines for how to manage your pain and your pain pill consumption.

In 2013, The New Yorker released an article entitled, Who is Responsible for the Pain-Pill Epidemic? In it, the author Celine Gounder stated that “the United States, with about five percent of the world’s population, was consuming ninety-nine percent of the world’s hydrocodone (the narcotic in Vicodin), along with eighty percent of the oxycodone (in Percocet and OxyContin), and sixty-five per cent of the hydromorphone (in Dilaudid).” Since that time, the number of prescribed pain meds has continued to grow. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a deadly heroin epidemic and the studies shows that many of those addictions spurred from prescribed pain meds. While pain medications might be temporarily necessary, it is important to take them with precaution.

If you’ve found yourself in a scenario where pain medications are suggested, there are some things you can do to prevent addiction:

  1. Ask if the pain medications are necessary. Can ibuprofen or Tylenol be taken instead?
  2. Follow the doctor’s instructions when it comes to dosage.  Do not take more than prescribed.
  3. Follow up with your doctor.  If your pain continues once your medication is gone don’t allow the pain to get worse.
  4. Ask your doctor about alternative methods to relieve pain. Some examples are meditation, heat/cold therapy, etc.

If you have that pill bottle sitting in your medicine cabinet, don’t hang on to it! Dispose of it properly to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

Managing your pain is important. But once that pain is gone, managing what you do with your pain meds is equally important. When it comes to painkillers, know the facts and talk to your doctor about the questions you may have.

Horizon Health Services offers help for individuals and families dealing with the impact of substance use and mental health disorders. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental health and live in the Western New York area, please contact us. We can help. (716) 831-1800