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Be Smart With Your Chronic Pain Meds

Smart Storage and Disposal

Many pain medications are also popular drugs of abuse. As a result, it's important to store such medications safely. Consider a "medication safe" or some other lockable device if you're not comfortable with having your meds in your medicine cabinet. This is a great choice for households with small children and even teens or college-age young adults.
Be aware of your pain meds whenever you have others in your house, such as friends, visitors, or repairmen. Don't leave your medications in plain sight in a vehicle, even if it's locked.
Disposing of unneeded (or in the case of patches, used) pain medications is equally important. Many cities have developed ways to safely dispose of medications -- sometimes at police stations, sometimes at "drug roundups" several times a year. If this isn't available in your area or doesn't work for you, talk with your pharmacist about how to best dispose of your medications.
Some medications can be flushed down the toilet; others are better disposed of by mixing them into an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or cat litter. Placing them inside a dirty baby diaper is also effective. Whichever method you choose, make sure to dispose of the medications outside of the reach of children and pets.

Speak Up

If you're not happy with your pain control, for whatever reason, speak up! There are many different types of pain medications your doctor can try. Some are narcotics; others are not. Some are taken by mouth, while others are applied to the skin as patches or creams. Some are Schedule II controlled substances, which require a new hard-copy prescription (and lots of "red tape" for your doctor and pharmacist) with each fill, while others are subject to less strict regulations.
While you should certainly try to work with your healthcare provider, sometimes your doctor (or the doctor's office staff) simply isn't a good fit for you. Don't feel embarrassed about switching doctors, although you should certainly avoid constantly switching, or "doctor shopping."
With a little trial and error and a bit of planning, it's easy to be smart about your chronic pain medications. 
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