Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Can over-the-counter pain relievers cause health problems?

By Vaseline May30,2024

Editor’s Note: The following is part of a class project originally started in Professor Adam Kuban’s classroom at Ball State University in the fall of 2021. Kuban continued the project this spring semester, challenging his students to find sustainability efforts in the Muncie area and pitch their ideas. to Ron Wilkins, interim editor of The Star Press, Journal & Courier and Palladium-Item. This spring, stories about health care will appear.

A bottle of over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and Tylenol can easily be purchased at a local drugstore for less than $10. No doctor’s appointments are necessary.

After taking a pill, the pain should disappear.

As the opioid epidemic continues in the United States, over-the-counter medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen, have become a common alternative to treat pain.

According to a Big Village survey published by the American Heart Association in 2023, about 3,000 adults in the US were surveyed, and about 50% reported taking over-the-counter painkillers once a week or more. Adults between the ages of 45 and 54 used them most often, and only about 30% of adults said they had talked to their doctor about the possible side effects the painkillers may have.

Philip King and Lauren Czosnowski, pharmacists and internal medicine specialists at IU Health, said every time a patient is admitted to the hospital, they document what medications they are taking.

“Almost every patient will regularly use Tylenol or ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relievers on their list, but they may not realize it’s a really relevant drug,” King said.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs versus acetaminophen

The two main types of over-the-counter pain relievers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and acetaminophen (including ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen) and acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol. Both treat pain and fever, but function differently.

According to University Hospitals, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen force your body to produce fewer prostaglandins. These play a role in controlling body temperature and irritate your nerve endings, causing you to feel pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen are good at relieving pain from swelling and inflammation. However, according to a 2023 study by Suneil Agrawal in “StatPearls: Treasure Island,” acetaminophen helps pain by inhibiting prostaglandins and acting on the hypothalamus area of ​​the brain, which regulates body temperature. It is useful for arthritis and headaches.

Different medications have different doses depending on age and weight, but King and Czosnowski said it is not recommended to ever take more than 2,400 milligrams of ibuprofen, which is equivalent to 12 pills, per day. For Tylenol, they said to never take more than 3,200 milligrams, or between six and nine pills, depending on the amount in each pill.

“Especially with the more recent concerns about the overuse of opioids, we really want to try to use the safest and most effective painkillers,” Czosnowski said.

When people consistently use ibuprofen, side effects can include diarrhea, gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney damage, high blood pressure, liver toxicity, heart attack, stroke and more, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Ibuprofen may also interact negatively with other medications, such as other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or if you are taking blood thinners.

Overuse of acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US, according to university hospitals

Alcohol may not respond well to painkillers

King said mixing alcohol with painkillers can also cause problems.

If someone takes Tylenol for a hangover, it can increase the production of toxic metabolites and cause further liver damage. Metabolites, according to the National Cancer Institute, are a substance created when the body breaks down food, drugs or chemicals. It is part of metabolism, which makes energy and materials needed for growth, reproduction and maintaining health. It also helps remove toxins. It can take years for the side effects of this damage to become apparent.

“Just because it’s available without a prescription doesn’t mean it’s not harmful,” King said.

When using painkillers, take your age into account

According to a 2022 study by Victoria C. Ziesenitz published in “Pediatric Drugs,” nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are one of the most commonly used drugs in pediatric patients.

“I think it is very important that patients or parents be very careful in looking for the right formula for the child’s age,” Czosnowski said.

According to the American Heart Association, Generation Z, or people born between 1997 and 2012, were 30.5% less likely than other generations to ask healthcare professionals about alternative pain relief before using over-the-counter medications.

Even though Koran Jefferson is Gen Z, he would definitely speak to his doctor before initially taking ibuprofen.

Jefferson is a sophomore studying criminal justice at Ball State University and has been taking ibuprofen since he was in high school. After developing ankle and shin problems from playing football, he was put on Percocet. He used it for a short period before asking his doctor to prescribe ibuprofen, and he has been using it ever since.

Jefferson takes ibuprofen twice a day, three to four times a week. He plays basketball all week, so he takes 1,600 milligrams, or eight pills, 30 minutes before he plays. He said the ibuprofen takes away most of the pain from his previous injuries, and other students who play basketball with him often use it as well.

“Our bodies aren’t the same as they used to be, so we need (ibuprofen) to get through it,” he said.

Every time Jefferson starts playing basketball, he immediately feels the pain in his shin. He said he gets shin splints and everything hurts, especially when he runs. He always plays slowly when he starts.

“That second and third game, the ibuprofen really helped me,” Jefferson said. “It gave me that energy instead of taking it away.”

Although ibuprofen has been helpful to him, he has informed his doctors of how much he is taking, and they told him to slow down his use.

Jefferson didn’t listen.

He knows there can be long-term side effects, but he has seen little impact.

The psychology of painkillers

Psychologist and Ball State alumnus Ari Gleckman said people often continue taking painkillers because they worry that symptoms will return if they stop. Although the risk of addiction to over-the-counter pain relief is low, side effects can still occur after someone abruptly stops using it.

“There is such a thing as a medication overuse headache,” King said. “If someone takes Tylenol every day and then stops taking Tylenol, he or she may even develop a headache and feel like they need to take more Tylenol to make the symptoms go away.”

Gleckman, president of ASA (an acronym for his children’s names) Concierge Psychological Services, a private mental health practice, helps patients with pain and addiction.

He primarily treats people suffering from chronic pain that lasts longer than six months and can continue after the injury or disease is treated, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Gleckman sees no reason to avoid over-the-counter painkillers, as long as they are part of the protocol to reduce pain and not the entire protocol. He said people have not become so tolerant of pain because they can go to a pharmacy and find a solution.

“People don’t like pain,” he said. “Pain is something we will try to address and avoid.”

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