How long has it been since you’ve done a complete inventory of all the prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs you have in your home? Do you even know what you have? Some of those old containers of pills, solutions, drops and creams may be long past their expiration date.
Chances are, however, you’ve got bigger problems lurking in your medicine cabinet. Without knowing it, you may be endangering yourself or others in your family. It’s time to be smart about prescription addiction. In this case, what you don’t know may very well kill you.
No One Starts Out Trying to Abuse Drugs
Unless someone is deliberately suicidal, they generally don’t start out trying to abuse drugs. Drug abuse, dependence and addiction occur over time. And, no, it isn’t just illegal drugs that cause addiction. Millions of Americans are addicted to one or more prescription drugs. Let’s say you fall and hurt your low back. The doctor asks some questions such as how long you’ve had the condition, what brought it on, where the pain hurts, when does it hurt most, what type of pain is it, and other questions. He then performs a physical examination. Since you’re in pain, he gives you a prescription for a painkiller, probably an opiate.
Opiates are narcotics, and because they have a high potential for addiction, they are generally prescribed for only 1 to 2 weeks. Depending on the level of pain, your doctor may prescribe varying strengths of opiates. The Rx number usually begins with a C (for controlled). Some of the more common are:
• Codeine (Tylenol-3)
• Fentanyl (Actiq)
• Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Norco, Panlor)
• Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
• Morphine (MS Contin, Oramorph SR, Avinza)
• Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Percolone)
• Propoxyphene (Darvocet-N)
According to WebMD, opiates are not intended to be taken until all the pain goes away. Their intended use is just to get patients through the most severe pain. By continuing to take opiates, you risk dependence and addiction. Long-term abuse of opiates leads to potentially severe withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop taking them.
Never Mix Drugs and Alcohol
This should be a no-brainer, but it isn’t. Despite printed warnings on prescription labels, warnings on TV advertisements for medications, numerous newspaper, TV and Internet stories about the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol, some people still do it.
Mind Expiration Dates
Never permit outdated medications to remain in the medicine cabinet or anywhere else. While some medications may be effective for some period of time after their expiration date,it’s not a good idea to take the chance. This is especially true for life-saving medicines for heart conditions, diabetes, and other conditions.
Go through the house today and toss out all expired medications. If some of these are still necessary, contact your doctor to get a new prescription.Write the expiration date of the newly-obtained medication on the tracking list along with other pertinent information.
Ensure Safety Precautions
While we’re on the subject of inventory and expiration dates, here’s another important tip. If you have young children or teenagers in the house, or if your elderly parents or other relatives live with you, take appropriate safety precautions for all medications. Keep them locked up in a medicine cabinet.
Does this sound extreme? You may be surprised to know that teenagers say the easiest way to obtain prescription medications – that they take for non-medical purposes – is to simply raid their parents’ medicine cabinet or one at the home of their friends. Eager to experiment, test the bounds, fit in with the crowd, and take risks, adolescents and teens gravitate toward this “open candy store”. Alcohol can be involved and the results can be catastrophic.
Know that addiction to prescription drugs can easily sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention to the signs. Take as little medication as you need for the shortest period of time. If you find that you do get into trouble, feeling a dependence on the prescription drug, seek medical attention and counseling.
Bottom line: be smart about prescription addiction. The life you save may be your own (or that of your loved one). Peace
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