It’s time to talk about the dangers of painkillers and sleeping pills. These facts come from NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman. 

  • First: Did you know that overdoses of painkillers kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined? Painkillers don’t actually reduce pain – they simply make us NOT CARE about it as much by hijacking the area of the brain that makes us feel good. So the pain is overridden with pleasure. And the feel-good reward makes us want more, which is why pain pills are addicting. But the more painkillers you take, the more your body gets used to them. And the less effective they become, which increases the risk for overdose. So, if you’re dealing with chronic pain – and taking increasingly higher doses of pain pills - talk to your doctor. They may suggest alternative treatments, like antidepressants or electrical nerve stimulation. 

  • Now that we’ve talked painkillers – let’s look at the dangers of sleeping pills. Some of the most popular sleep aids work by quieting down most regions of your brain. Except the ones involving survival, like keeping your lungs and heart working. But because sleeping pills slow down our breathing, they can be dangerous for anyone with asthma or sleep apnea. And mixing sleeping pills with alcohol – or even grapefruit – can make the meds so powerful, you could overdose, and stop breathing altogether. Another problem: Sleeping pills don’t always wear off by the time your alarm goes off. Which leaves you wandering around in a fog……And can make it impossible to do anything that requires alertness, like driving. What’s the fix? Consider non-medical sleep aids, like white noise machines, stress-reducing fragrances like lavender, or even lowering the temperature of your bedroom, so your sleep hormones kick in.