Over-the-counter and prescription drugs are often the first and most commonly used tool for managing chronic pain. Although many people associate prescription drug use with the possibility of drug dependence, there are many other health hazards to take into consideration when regularly using medication to manage pain.
According to Pain Pathways magazine (Spring 2011), prescription drugs are being misused and accidentally harming the population in a variety of ways. Teenagers may get their hands on their parent’s prescription drugs to get high, people may share their medication with others, and others may use their drugs after the expiration date. All of these common occurrences are extremely dangerous to all those involved, whether legally, morally, or physically. Improper disposal of expired drugs is also becoming a problem, as some people are flushing their medications down the toilet. These drugs then seep into the general water supply of their city, potentially causing great harm to anyone who may use the water later on.
In addition to the risks associated with the use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications pose their own set of risks and safety hazards. Chronic pain sufferers frequently use acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as a part of their pain management routine. Although available more readily (and therefore, perceived as safer by the general public), the use of OTC drugs can result in accidental drug overdose, especially combined with prescription medications. It is extremely important to be aware of exactly which prescriptions you are taking and at what times in order to avoid a drug reaction or overdose. In all cases, it is extremely important to use and dispose of any medication responsibly and safely.