Web MD -- Living With Chronic Pain: 9 Pain Pill Mistakes
Prescription or Over the Counter, Pain Pill Mistakes Common
It's been a hard day, and Joe's back is killing him. His wife has some Percocet left over from a trip to the dentist, and there's that big bottle of Tylenol under the sink, so Joe grabs a couple of each and washes them down with a slug of beer.
Luckily for Joe, he's a fictional character invented for this article. But there are a lot of real-life Joes out there making big mistakes with over-the-counter and prescription pain pills.
Can you spot Joe's mistakes? Joe didn't make every mistake in the book. But he made quite a few.
Here's WebMD's list of common pain pill mistakes, compiled with the help of pharmacist Kristen A. Binaso, RPh, spokeswoman for the American Pharmacists Association; and pain specialist Eric R. Haynes, MD, founder of Comprehensive Pain Management Partners in Trinity, Fla.
Doctors prescribe pain pills at the doses they believe will offer the greatest benefit at the least risk. Doubling or tripling that dose won't speed relief. But it can easily speed the onset of harmful side effects.
"The first dose of a pain medication may not work in five minutes the way you want. But this does not mean you should take five more," Binaso says. "With some pain drugs, if you take additional doses, it makes the first dose not work as well. And with others, you end up in the emergency room."
If you've given your pain medication time to work, and it still does not control your pain, don't double down. See your doctor about why you're still hurting.
"This 'one is good so two must be better' thing is a common problem," Haynes says. "Patients should follow the instructions their doctor gives. Ask before leaving the office: Can I take an extra pill if I still hurt? What is the upper limit for this medication?"
Another bad idea is trying to boost the effect of one kind of pain pill by taking another.
"There may be Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, and ibuprofen in the house, and a person may take them all," Binaso says.
This can escalate into a very bad situation, Haynes says.
People often take over-the-counter pain drugs -- and even prescription pain drugs -- without reading the label. That means they often don't know which drugs they're taking. That's never a good idea.
And if they take another over-the-counter drug -- either for extra pain relief or for other reasons -- they may be getting an overdose. That's because many OTC drugs are combination pills that carry a full dose of pain pill ingredients.
In Joe's case, he's taken a prescription pain pill that contains acetaminophen along with a second full dose of acetaminophen from Tylenol, putting him at risk of injury.