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Ten (10) Tips for Safe Use

Medications work best when they are used in the manner prescribed and as directed. Especially for opioid pain medicines, the advice to “take as directed” is critically important. Too much of it or taking it with other substances like alcohol or over-the-counter drugs can kill you or put you back in the hospital or emergency room. Follow these 10 tips to make sure you’re using your pain medicine safely.

  1. Take only the amount prescribed. Do not increase your dose or take it more times in a day than the provider said. This can have serious health effects.
  2. Use of opioids can lead to drowsiness. Do not drive or use any machinery that may injure you, especially when you first start the medicine.
  3. Don’t mix with other prescribed medicines. Always check with your provider if you’re taking multiple prescriptions to make sure they won’t have harmful effects if taken at same time.
  4. Don’t mix with over-the-counter medicines or supplements. Mixing could harmful consequences.
  5. Don’t mix with alcohol. Both opioids and alcohol depress your central nervous system which, among other things, regulates your breathing. Many accidental deaths have occurred from mixing alcohol and opioid pain relievers.
  6. Know the warning signs of overdose. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is just very high, or experiencing an overdose. Some signs of overdose include: not breathing, turning blue in the face, and not responding verbally. If you are not sure if someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911. For more information about signs of overdose.
  7. Look out for the early signs of addiction. Learn about the 7 signs of addiction to pain medications.
  8. Store your medicine safely. For specific recommendations, click here: (link to other information below)
  9. Think about getting a prescription for Naloxone. Naloxone (Narcan®) is a life-saving medication that can quickly restore the breathing of a person who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid pain medication like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, fentanyl or methadone. The State of Maryland has a “standing order” that allows any individual to get Naloxone without an individual prescription. Pharmacy participation may vary; ask to speak to a pharmacist about naloxone. To learn more about how to get and use Naloxone.
  10. Dispose of your meds as soon as you are done with them. This reduces the chance that you or anyone else could be accidentally harmed by these medications. Places where you can dispose of your medications.

Strategies for Safe Storage

Whether you’ll be taking your prescription for one week or one month or one year, you need to create a safe place to store your medications. What is that safe place?

The two most important features of a safe space are the level of humidity and the level of access. Ironically, the bathroom medicine cabinet may be the worst place to store your medicines. Most medicines need to remain in a dry location and bathrooms are frequently humid. So, find a space where the air stays relatively dry. Next, think about limiting access to anyone who could be harmed by your medication. The best way to do this is to put a lock or latch on the space where you keep your medicines. It could be a cabinet, a box or another type of container – as long as you can lock it with a key, combination lock or latch.

For additional information about safe storage and disposal.

If children in home: Be sure to keep this medicine locked away where your child/children and their friends can’t get to them – they could be fatal to a young child.

If teens in home: Be sure to keep this medicine locked away where your teenager(s) and his/her/their friend(s) can’t get to them – someplace that only you have a key to is best. No one wants to think that their child would use drugs, but opioids are particularly popular with today’s teens.

Sharing is Not Caring 

Your medicine is prescribed only for you, so don’t share it. Giving your prescription medicine to someone else could be dangerous. Your provider considered many factors before giving you this prescribed medication. You are not a provider and may not know the other person’s past medical history, current condition and the risks to that person. Sharing any prescribed medication is also illegal. It’s not worth risking the other person’s health and your legal troubles. Do not share your medication with anyone.

I’m Done with My Meds, Now What?

Don’t be tempted to ‘save’ your medication for future use. There are two main problems with this approach. First, because you are not a provider, your future use of the medication may not be indicated. Second, saving this prescription means that you will have this drug in your house for a period of time. This creates the risk that someone else could access this drug – without your knowledge – and cause harm either for themselves or for you.

Places where you can dispose of your medications.

See how this practice can be dangerous.

Need More Help?

Who should you call if you or someone you know is having an overdose? American Association of Poison Control Centers Hotline: 1(800) 222-1222

Here is a list of other resources that you may find useful:

Here is a list of other resources that you may find useful:

If you think you might be struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The following websites can help you find someone who has been trained to help you find ways to manage your depression and other life stressors.

If you think you might be struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The PPP has a psychiatrist, Dr. Traci Speed who can see you.

The following websites can also  help you find other resources to help you: