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Tips for Taking Pain Medications

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For most people, medications will be a central part of the treatment plan for pain. The American Cancer Society offers these tips for getting the most benefit from your medications:

  • Take your pain medicine on a regular schedule (around the clock) to help control pain. Take it when it is time to take it — even if you are not having pain.
  • Do not skip doses of your scheduled medicine. The more pain you have, the harder it is to control.
  • If you have breakthrough pain, use your short-acting medicine as your doctor suggests. Don't wait for the pain to get worse — if you do, it can get harder to control.
  • Be sure only one doctor prescribes your pain medicine. If another doctor changes your medicine, the two doctors should discuss your treatment with each other.
  • Don't run out of pain medicine. Remember that prescriptions are needed for opioid pain medicines — the doctor can't call them in, and drugstores don't always have them in stock. It can take a few days to get the medicine, so give yourself time for delays.
  • Store pain medicines safely away from children, pets, and others who might take them.
  • Never take someone else's medicine. Medicines that helped a friend or relative may not be right for you.
  • Do not use old pain medicine or medicine left over from other problems. Drugs that worked for you in the past may not be right for you now.
  • Pain medicines affect different people in different ways. A very small dose may work for you, while someone else may need to take a much larger dose to get pain relief.
  • Remember, your pain control plan can be changed at any time.

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