No one intends to end up an addict—and most of us won’t. Any expert will tell you that the vast majority of people who take Rx painkillers don’t abuse them. Still, to avoid becoming a statistic, it pays to learn the facts about these powerful drugs. Here’s what you need to know before asking for—or filling—a prescription.
Just because your doctor is willing to give you painkillers doesn’t mean you have to take them. Keep in mind that, as the FDA noted when it recently announced a new plan to fight the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, some types of pain medicine are “extensively misprescribed.”
Narcotics are recommended for moderate to severe pain; if your pain is mild to moderate, you can probably manage it with nonnarcotic over-the-counter (OTC) choices like ibuprofen, a topical analgesic cream (such as Aspercreme), or a lidocaine patch that’s applied at the site of your pain, says Jerry Lerner, M.D., chief of pain medicine at Sierra Tucson, a treatment center in Tucson, AZ. “If you need something stronger, you can always switch to prescription meds,” he adds, “and then go back to the OTCs once your pain lessens.”