‘I don’t understand why this pain won’t go away.’ Kitan shares with Pharm. Chika ‘I have tried several painkillers but it seems as if as soon as it starts working, it stops again. Me, I don tire. I need a permanent solution.’
This is a scenario you may find relatable as painkillers are the most consumed class of drugs in the world. When you have a headache, you probably think to pop paracetamol or other pills. While it may seem like you have done the right thing, you may be making some unknown mistakes. Although commonly used, they are still drugs that require care when using them, but with the availability of many over-the-counter options available, the potential for abuse abounds.
Also, the damage that can be done to the body due to improper use of painkillers such as liver damage, breathing difficulty, ulcers, among others also exist.
To minimize these risks and keep your health in check, watch out for these five mistakes with painkiller use:
MISTAKE 1: You Do Not Check The Dosing Time
Every drug has a half-life which determines how long the effect of a drug lasts in your body. This is what determines how many times you need to take the drug daily and when you need to do so.
Taking a dose of painkiller whenever you have pains instead of following the right way can cause the drug to be less than effective or even lead to increased levels of the blood in the body which can be harmful.
What To Do: Always pay attention to the timing of your drugs. Ibuprofen, for example, can be taken up to 3 times daily (every 8 hours) while paracetamol can be taken every 4-6 hours. When taking both, this should be taken into consideration.
MISTAKE 2: You Do Not Check The Expiration Date Of Your Drugs
The average family has painkillers in their first aid boxes, with the best intentions in mind. However, these tend to stay for a long time and you may pick them up to use without checking the expiration date.
Expiration (or expiry) date of a drug is a reflection of the time frame during which it retains its purity, strength and quality when it is stored in the right conditions.
Using a drug after its expiration date is not advised because it may have lower effectiveness or harmful effects.
What To Do: Always ensure that your drugs are stored in the conditions stated by the manufacturer. For example, suspensions that come in powder form should be reconstituted, often stored in the fridge and should not be used for longer than ten days before discarding. Syrups that come in liquid form can be re-used and stored for 1-3 months.
Mistake 3: You Take Other People’s Drugs
There is simply no situation where it is alright to take drugs that were not specifically prescribed for you.
The danger in taking drugs can range from wrong dosing to side effects to an increased risk of organ damage. In certain cases, it may even lead to a fatality. You may be allergic to certain ingredients or they could interact with other drugs you are taking.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, diclofenac) should not be used in people who have a history of asthma and ulcers. They should also be used with care in patients with hypertension.
What To Do: Do not take someone else’s medications. There are peculiarities each drug has. What works great for you may be damaging to the health of someone else (and vice versa.)
Every drug can be a poison. Always tread with caution.
MISTAKE 4: You Do Not Read Or Follow Instructions
Some painkillers like paracetamol may be taken on an empty stomach but others like diclofenac always be taken with food. If you cannot take a full meal, you can take a glass of milk to reduce the risk of stomach lining irritation.
Also, pregnant women should not use opioids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as it can affect the foetus. There are also medications that make your skin more sensitive to the sun, and you should pay attention to that.
What To Do: Always ask your pharmacist for clear details on the drugs prescribed for your use.
MISTAKE 5: You Are Simply Taking Too Much
With the amount of stress we may go through and reduced sleep hours, it is no surprise that painkillers are all the rage. This has its negative effects as may lead to tolerance, dependence or addiction to some of these drugs.
You may not read your medication labels and share all medications you are currently taking with your pharmacist, to avoid doubling the dose, drug-drug interaction which can lead to long-term damage of the skin.
What To Do: It is crucial to read your medication labels, including children’s medication. Seek alternate ways to deal with pain like getting more rest and sleep, using supplements and in certain cases, exercise. Doing these will keep you healthier and safer.
Painkillers are often abused in our society as we may not see immediate adverse effects and many of them are readily available. Nevertheless, utmost care must be taken when using them.