The Truth About Painkillers

The Truth About Painkillers


How does ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) work?

It blocks certain pain chemicals.

Ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve) are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They keep your body from making prostaglandins, which are linked to both pain and inflammation. They’re used to treat a wide variety of problems, from headaches and back pain to arthritis and lupus.

Which is a possible side effect of ibuprofen?

Skin rash or blisters

The best-known side effect of NSAIDs is bleeding in your intestinal tract. You may be more likely to have this if you take them often, are older than 65, have a history of ulcers, or use a blood thinner like warfarin (Coumadin) or a corticosteroid like prednisone. But they can also cause skin problems: If you get a rash, redness, or blisters, tell your doctor.

What is a possible side effect of acetaminophen?

Liver damage

While it’s safe for most people when it’s used correctly, taking too much of this medicine is the most common cause of liver failure. That’s why it’s important to always follow the instructions on the bottle. If you think you need more than the label recommends, ask your doctor for guidance.

Using ibuprofen for a long time may cause rebound headaches


If you take it often to keep headaches at bay, you could set yourself up for trouble. The same goes for acetaminophen. People who take over-the-counter headache medicines more than a few times a week sometimes get stuck in a cycle: The more they take, the more they need. And if they try to stop taking them, their headaches come back even worse. If you have this issue, you may need your doctor’s help to break the cycle.

Taking NSAIDs often may raise your odds of having a heart attack.


Studies have linked these meds to greater chances of heart failure or stroke. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever use them — taking them for a few days is fine for most people. But it’s smart to take the lowest dose that works for you and use them only as long as you need them. The risk seems to get bigger the longer you take them. If you have heart disease, talk with your doctor before taking NSAIDs.

It’s usually OK to take NSAIDs without talking to your doctor for up to 10 days

Just because you can buy them without a prescription doesn’t mean there aren’t risks. Using them for a long time also might keep you from seeing your doctor about a health problem that should be treated. If you find yourself taking pain relievers often or for more than 10 days in a row, it’s time to get checked out.

Most people who take opioids for a long period of time, like Vicodin or OxyContin, for pain relief eventually get addicted.

Opioids, also called narcotics, are often prescribed when other pain relievers just aren’t enough. The chances of getting addicted to them are low if you take them for only a short time, but they go up if you use them for a long time to treat pain that doesn’t go away. Opioid addiction and misuse has become a serious problem and a leading cause of overdose.

What is the most common side effect of opioids?


About 90% of people who use them have this problem. If your doctor prescribes an opioid, he also may give you a stool softener or laxative at the same time to help keep you regular. There are many other possible side effects, including nausea, drowsiness, and having a hard time peeing or getting an erection.

Which opioid medication is most likely to cause withdrawal symptoms?


It can be hard to stop taking these drugs even if you’re not addicted to them. This is because your body may start to depend on them over time. This can happen with any opioid, but it may be worse with shorter-acting ones like Vicodin and Percocet.

Who shouldn’t take aspirin?

People who have bleeding disorders

Because it thins your blood, it can be dangerous for people who already have a problem related to that. And if you take a blood thinner, like warfarin (Coumadin), it’s usually best to stay away from aspirin and NSAIDs. Acetaminophen may be a better choice to fight your aches and pains.


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