What you should know about pain management medications

A man sits on the edge of his bed and rubs his lower back in pain.

How to stay safe before, during, and after treatment

Managing short-term and chronic pain appropriately can significantly improve the quality of life for patients who are in need. In recent years, however, addiction and overdose associated with the use of pain medications have become a national epidemic. The CDC reports that over 1,000 patients are treated daily in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids medications.1

Coordinated efforts by healthcare professionals, pharmacy providers, and patients are essential in making opioid pain medication use safer. It’s important to have the right support system and information to understand pain management treatment options and to use pain medications safely. 

Below are ways you can practice safe pain medication management before, during, and after treatment.

Before you take pain medications

  • Discuss which type of medication is appropriate for you: Discuss the type of pain medication that’s appropriate for your condition, whether short-term or chronic. If an opioid medication is right for you, it’s best to limit to the smallest dose and shortest course of therapy that’s appropriate. Acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can often be used to manage many pain conditions effectively.
  • Know what to expect: Discuss side effects and how to best manage them with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Update your medication list: Check that your current medication profile is up to date at your doctor’s office and pharmacy so that interactions between medications can be evaluated. Make sure all of your healthcare providers are aware if you’re taking medication for chronic pain conditions.
  • Plan with your doctor: Understand your treatment goals and know when to call your doctor if you experience side effects or you don’t get expected pain relief.

After you start pain medications

  • Take only as prescribed; do not exceed the recommended dosage and be sure to take with food if your doctor or pharmacist recommends it to help avoid side effects. It can also be helpful to drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation, which may occur with opioid medications.
  • Contact your doctor if needed to discuss side effects or lack of effect.
  • Don’t mix with alcohol or other medications, including over-the-counter ones, without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t drive or operate machinery until you know how the medications will affect you.
  • Store medications safely, away from children and protected against theft.
  • Don’t share medication with another person. This is not only dangerous, but also against the law.

When treatment finishes

  • Dispose of medication safely: Keep out of drains and toilets to protect from water supply contamination.
  • Use local drug disposal programs: These are often coordinated through local government, police, or fire departments. You can use this tool to locate permanent drug disposal boxes in your area.
  • If a drug disposal program is not available, there are a number of ways to safely dispose of your unwanted medications. For example, take a plastic zippered bag and place the unwanted medication, a few tablespoons of water, and an undesirable item like kitty litter or coffee grounds inside the bag and zip closed. Shake the ingredients to mix and place in the trash.

Our pharmacists are here to help

If you have questions about pain management medications or any medications you’re taking, call Express Scripts® Pharmacy. Our specially trained pharmacists are available by phone, 24/7, from the privacy of your home.

Posted date: March 14, 2022

  • 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 2017 Addressing the Prescription Opioid Crisis: https://www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/pdf/Overview-Rx-Awareness-Resources.pdf.