Prescription Pain Relievers Can Kill You

Medically Reviewed by: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

If you think you've heard it before, you're dead wrong

How many times has someone told you a "party" drug could lead to more serious problems - like addiction, brain damage, or even death? You've probably heard it so many times, it's getting hard to believe. But all drugs have real potential for harm - even prescription pain relievers. When abused alone, or taken with other drugs, prescription pain medications can kill you. And the death toll from misuse and abuse is rising steadily.

Think twice-because you only die once. Prescription pain relievers, when used correctly and under a doctor's supervision, are safe and effective. But abuse them, or mix them with illegal drugs or alcohol, and you could wind up in the morgue. Even using prescription pain relievers with other prescription drugs (such as antidepressants) or over-the-counter medications (like cough syrups and antihistamines), can lead to life-threatening respiratory failure. With some prescription pain relievers, all it takes is one pill.

Drugs to watch out for. The most dangerous prescription pain relievers are those containing drugs known as opioids, such as morphine and codeine. Some common drugs containing these substances include: