Opioid pain medications such as hydrocodone now cause more deaths related to overdose in the U.S. than heroin and cocaine combined. Hydrocodone is a highly addictive substance and extreme caution should be taken to ensure that this drug is used properly. People who suffer from extreme pain are in dire need of opioid drugs such as hydrocodone, and proper use by all ensures that those who need this medication most are able to experience relief from severe pain. Here we’ve compiled a few FDA guidelines and common sense tips to promote safer use of hydrocodone.
Eliminate dangerous drug interactions.
Always tell your doctor about every medication, street drug or supplement you are taking. This includes vitamins, cigarettes or anything that is smoked, over the counter drugs and herbal supplements. Some herbal supplements can interact just as dangerously as any other drug. Tell your doctor if you drink alcohol and how often. Alcohol can interact dangerously with hydrocodone medications, causing breathing to slow to a life-threatening pace. Other medications that interact with hydrocodone include other pain medications, barbiturates, sedatives, sleeping aids, cold or cough medications, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, seizure medications, and others.
Know the ingredients.
Several different hydrocodone medications are mixed with acetaminophen, which is more commonly known as Tylenol. As benign as something like Tylenol may sound, it also has its side effects. Tylenol, or acetaminophen, in excess can cause liver damage. Liver damage can be so extreme that patients who have overdosed have needed liver transplants, and in some cases, it can even be fatal. Acetaminophen can also be dangerous when mixed with other medications or drugs such as alcohol, anticonvulsants, diflunisal and others.
Know your dosage.
Your doctor will prescribe a safe dosage for your weight and your condition. Never exceed this dosage without talking to your doctor and getting approval. In most cases, adults can take a dose of hydrocodone pills every 4 to 6 hours, but no more than 8 pills should be consumed daily. It is typical to build up a tolerance for hydrocodone over time. If you start to need more medication to relieve your pain, talk to your doctor first.
Store your medication in a safe place.
Along with keeping your medication in an airtight, child-proof container in a cool, dry place, keep it in a place that is out of reach of children and pets, and anyone who is likely to be tempted to take your medication. Try to keep track of how many pills you have so that you know if someone else is taking or selling them. Remember that a normal adult dose of hydrocodone can be dangerous for small children and animals.
Be honest with your doctor.
Always tell your doctor if you are taking more medication than he or she has prescribed. Share any physical or mental side effects with him or her, and discuss any changes in symptoms. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, ask your doctor to do a regular urine toxicology test to check your blood levels. This will help to promote safer use.
Limit duration of use.
If possible, try not to take hydrocodone for more than 30 consecutive days. After the 30 day mark, opioid dependence is likely to occur. If you suffer from chronic pain that requires you to take this medication for an extended period of time, consider toxicology testing. Once you are ready to stop hydrocodone use, your doctor should slowly wean you off the medication to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms.