Painkillers are readily available. If you have back pain or you pulled a muscle at the gym, it is incredibly easy to pop a painkiller to block the discomfort and soothe any inflammation in the affected area. Yet what most people don’t realize is that painkillers are not harmless. Many, in particular, opioid painkillers, are highly addictive and can cause some dangerous side effects. So, before you take one of those innocuous pills tucked in the kitchen drawer, here is what you need to know.
NSAIDS are sold under a range of different brand names, including Advil, Motrin, Celebrex, and Voltaren. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to give them their correct name, have long been marketed as a safe way to relieve pain, inflammation, and fever. The problem is that although NSAIDs do a good job, they also cause some nasty side effects.
A Danish study found that patients who took NSAIDs were 50 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack. Diclofenac was the most problematic of the tested NSAIDs, but ibuprofen was nearly as bad. Unfortunately, many people take NSAIDs regularly, to help treat sports injuries, arthritis, and treat minor aches and pains.
Scientists found that taking NSAIDs triggered platelet production, which led to restricted blood flow in the arteries. There is also evidence from other scientific studies that show the long-term use of NSAIDs causes damage to the stomach lining and gastric inflammation.
Opioids are a family of strong painkillers that includes Vicodin, Oxycodone, Morphine, and Tramadol. They are often prescribed for back pain and other chronic pain conditions, but although opioids are effective at numbing the pain, they come with significant health risks.
Long-term opioid use is a serious problem in the US. More than half of patients prescribed opioid drugs for pain relief are still taking them five years later. Opioids are highly addictive and the longer you take them, the more you need to achieve the same level of relief.
Opioids work by altering parts of the brain where emotions are processed. They block pain signals, but they are hugely addictive. Many patients who have taken opioids long-term find they can’t get relief from their pain; they may even experience worse pain.
The more opioids you take, the worse it is. Taking too high a dose of opioids can cause respiratory failure and death, just as taking too many NSAIDs is dangerous. It is very important to seek help if you are in the throes of drug addiction. Often, addiction happens very quickly, so never take strong painkillers unless you are under the close supervision of your doctor.
In many cases, other treatment options are actually more effective. If you have back pain, for example, physiotherapy and stretching exercises will relieve pain more effectively that painkillers.
Taking strong painkillers or NSAIDs is OK in the short-term, but if you need to take pills any longer than a week or the original dose is not working for you anymore, alarm bells should start ringing.