There are thousands of different medications out there to treat various ailments and conditions, many of which we will never need to take during our lifetimes. However, pain medications are a major exception. Whether dealing with a broken bone, an abscessed tooth, back pain or any number of other conditions or circumstances, chances are high that you’re going to be dealing with severe pain more than once in your life or even be forced to suffer chronic pain. Since you’ll likely end up taking pain medications, we’ve compiled a list of 10 Pain Medication Secrets Your Doctor May Not Tell You, to shed some light on what you may not know.
Acetaminophen is Even More Dangerous than the Opioids
You’ve already heard about some of the dangers of opioids like hydrocodone, but what your doctor may not tell you is that acetaminophens like Tylenol (which are often mixed with opioids in strong pain medications) are even more dangerous if taken rashly. An overdose of acetaminophen can lead to permanent liver damage which could even result in death. Nor is there only a threat from a single large dose; data from a liver center showed that an overdose consisting of multiple doses spread throughout a day was even more likely to be fatal than single-dose overdoses.
Safeguard Your Pills
You’re not the only one at risk of overdosing on, or becoming addicted to, your own pills. Millions of kids are now abusing these medications as well, and not only their own. In fact, kids are more likely to get opioids from their grandmother’s medicine cabinet than anywhere else. As such, dangerous medications should be hidden away or even locked in a safety box to keep them out of the hands of kids or grandkids. Likewise, ensure you’re disposing of your unneeded pills safely and covertly.
You May Get A Tad Constipated
Taking opioids may not only shut down your pain, it’s likely to shut down the smooth functioning of your bowels as well. Constipation is one of the most common side effects associated with taking the pills, in addition to nausea, itchiness, or intense tiredness or sluggishness. In the case of constipation, it’s recommended that you up your fiber intake while taking such medications, in addition to drinking plenty of water. For additional help spurring the bowels to action, consider taking a teaspoon of castor oil on an empty stomach.
Your Pain Probably Won’t Be Completely Relieved
To be frank, doctors are more concerned about what’s causing your pain than the actual pain itself. That is their job, after all, to treat the underlying condition. Naturally, they don’t want you to suffer from severe pain to the point that you’re incapable of functioning, and thus will prescribe pain meds when necessary. However, even then, doctors will tend to err on the side of caution and prescribe just enough to make the pain less of an issue without totally wiping it out. There are a number of reasons for this, some of which we’ve already touched on, or will below.
Pills Are Not The Only Way
While popping a pill and feeling the pain melt away is a sublime experience and surely the easiest way to handle it, pills are in fact not the only way to manage pain. There are dozens of traditional and alternative approaches to dealing with pain which your doctor may not mention, from heating pads or cooling packs to herbal supplements and acupuncture. Massage therapy is also an increasingly popular method of tackling areas of the body prone to pain, like the lower back and shoulders. On the other hand, energy healing makes a lot of bold claims but with dubious efficacy and should only be used as a last resort.
Pain Medications Don’t Play Well With Others
This is another point that is quite serious, but one which many of your doctors should have the wherewithal to let you in on, so we’ve ranked it lower than we would’ve otherwise. Alcohol and opioids is a big no-no in combination, but even over-the-counter medications like simple cold remedies should also be avoided, as they may contain acetaminophen (more on that further down). As your pain medication likely contains acetaminophen as well, you could be at risk of a dangerous overdose by taking both medications at the same time.
You’ll Develop A Tolerance to the Meds
It can be tempting to pop those pain meds at the first onset of pain, but what your doctor may not tell you is that you should use them as sparingly as possible, as you’ll develop a tolerance to them sooner the more you use them. Our bodies have an uncanny tendency to adapt to what’s being put into them and become less affected by it, such as how we build a tolerance to alcohol through repeated drinking. The same applies to pain medications, which can actually sensitize part of the nervous system and could even make your pain feel worse over time.
Long-Term Consequences Exist
While the threat of addiction gets the bulk of attention when people discuss the dangers of taking pain medications, your doctor may not tell you that aside from that, there are other potential long-term consequences. As mentioned above, long-term use can actually sensitize the nervous system to pain, making it even worse and forcing you to take even more pills to compensate. Your hormonal balance can also get thrown completely out-of-whack, resulting in fatigue, depression, and even changes to your libido that could crush your sex drive.
Pain Meds Are Highly Addictive
While this is a serious point that could even deserve the #1 spot, given that doctors are probably more likely to mention it than many of the other points listed below, as well as the fact that you probably already knew it anyway means we’ll kick off our list with it. There is a growing awareness of how addictive opioids are as more and more people fall victim to their embrace. Even people with strong willpower and ones who have steered clear of other addictive substances like alcohol and nicotine need to avoid being dismissive of the possibility that it could happen to them.
Don’t Use Those Old Pills Lying Around
Given the tolerance to opioids that can develop, your prescription strength may have been jacked up over time by your doctor to compensate if you were forced to take pain medication for an extended period in the past. However, if you’ve since been off any pain meds for awhile, your tolerance will have reset, which could make popping one of those old, more-powerful pills you still have lying around quite dangerous. One workaround would be to cut your pill in half, but even then, you should consult your doctor first about whether even that partial dosage would be alright.