Taking Prescription Pills While Avoiding Addiction

When prescription medications are used in any way other than as prescribed, they are being misused and abused. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths related to opioid painkillers. Abuse can happen when patients self-medicate by increasing frequency of doses, changing dosage amounts, or when combining with alcohol.

“Prescription painkiller misuse is a growing epidemic. However, most people who abuse these drugs are struggling with a person with substance use disorderion they never intended to have,” said John Ulczycki, vice president of strategic initiatives at the National Safety Council.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), reported that approximately 1 million emergency department visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse and 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate that has more than doubled over five years.

Preventing or stopping prescription drug abuse is an important part of patient care. A few points important to consider if you are using opioid painkillers:

  • The risk of addiction rises with longer periods of use, so take painkillers for the shortest amount of time possible to prevent abuse and addiction.
  • Be aware that painkillers have the potential to negatively interact with other drugs, including over-the-counter medication; pharmacists can answer questions concerning interactions.
  • Never stop or change dosages before talking to a health care professional; abruptly stopping some drugs can cause serious reactions and side effects.
  • Never “borrow” medications because it is important to take the correct dose of a specific medication and not something that is similar; it can be very dangerous if you mistake one type drug for a similar one that in reality may not be the same.
  • Alcohol can increase the effects of painkillers and can lead to overdose and death; it is best not to take the risk!


Please keep in mind that health care providers are in the best position to help answer all questions you may have about prescription and over-the-counter medications. Don’t suffer needless pain, but know all the health risks of the drugs that you take for pain relief. Ask about alternative or complementary treatments and be sure to inform providers of all vitamins, supplements and medications that you regularly or occasionally take.



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