Health & Fitness

The docs: Reduce your risk of accidental pain medication overdose

Last October the chronically injured former NFL safety Tyler Sash died from an accidental overdose after mixing two powerful pain medications. Unfortunately, overdose of opioid pain meds takes the life of 17,000 Americans annually, and in many cases the victims don’t believe they’re abusing the medication; they’re simply taking it for post-surgical or chronic pain.

Fortunately, many folks who overdose do survive. For every female death related to a pain-med overdose, 30 women show up at the ER and recover. The numbers for men are equally staggering. So why do folks who aren’t addicted to or intentionally abusing opioid medications overdose?

1. It can be hard to keep track of how many pills you’ve taken. Smart Move: Always keep a log of the date and time you take every pain pill.

2. You may inadvertently mix medications that trigger a dangerous interaction. Smart Move: Tell all of your doctors about every medication you’re taking, and obtain them all from one pharmacy. Your pharmacist can alert you to contraindications and possible interactions.

3. You figure one more pill will finally ease your pain. Smart Move: If the medication isn’t working at the prescribed dose, call your doctor to explore other ways to get relief.

4. According to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine, there’s one more reason: Among patients who’ve overdosed once, 91 percent are prescribed the same opioid 10 months later (61 percent by the same doc), and that doubles the risk of overdosing again! Smart Move: After an overdose, explore alternate pain solutions.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit