I Knew I Was Right to Dispose of Those Powerful Pain Killers

medicationsRecently memories about whether or not to use pain medications came flooding back after reading a New York Times article Alternatives to Opioids for Pain Relief. The article described research that compares the effectiveness of opioid and non-opioid medicines. It made me remember just how easily power pain medications have been prescribed.

Physicians observed and analyzed the extent of pain relief for 411 emergency department patients, men and women who were given different medications to decrease their extreme pain. The individuals in the study rated their pain and then were randomly assigned different medications, including acetaminophen, combined with either ibuprofen or opioids. Two hours later, when the patients in the study were again asked to rate their pain, there was no statistical difference in pain reduction between the different medications.        

Almost every time I’ve experienced significant pain or a surgical procedure, I’ve been offered a prescription for a powerful pain-killer. Even a few years ago we did not talk much, nor did I know much, about opioids, but the pill bottles, when I filled a  prescription, had every kind of warning one can imagine, and those alerts made me cautious, even when I was experiencing pain. So I threw out the pills (see below for some disposal info), and eventually I stopped filling the prescriptions.

I am struck, however, by how readily these prescriptions were offered to me. Given the extraordinary opioid problems today’s world, it is critical for us be aware of these medications, for ourselves and our aging parents.

The research was published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is possible to read the abstract, but the full text can only be accessed by subscribers or at a medical library.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes information about how to dispose of unused drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedules a Take Back Day each year. I’ve written two posts on this blog that might also be useful.

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