Top 3 Dangers of OTC Pain Relievers – Are You Taking One of These Medications?
Chances are – when you get a headache, hurt your back, pull a muscle or suffer from menstrual cramps – you reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication to help you feel better.
You don’t need a prescription, the cost is reasonable and the relief – though temporary – is fairly immediate. You use them every day without thinking about it for one thing or another.
The fact that these pain relievers are common does not make them safe. On the other hand, the fact that a remedy is uncommon does not make it unsafe.
It is likely that you have taken at least one of these medications – maybe all of them at one time or another – and there may be side effects to your health that you never suspected.
If you frequently use OTC pain medication – there are some things you need to know.
Every year in the United States, more than 100,000 people are hospitalized due to problems with OTC pain medications. More than 16,000 deaths are listed as the cause of death annually.
Top 3 Dangers of OTC Pain Relievers
1. Use with Caution: ACETAMINOPHEN
Most people know it as Tylenol [paracetamol in the United Kingdom] and use it as a pain reliever and to reduce fever.
It is prescribed by doctors regularly when an illness is not serious enough for a prescription. It is the leading reason for calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers and causes more than 50,000 emergency room visits each year!
Prolonged use of acetaminophen products accounts for 50% of all diagnosed cases of acute liver failure.
Acetaminophen has the highest rate of “staggered overdose” – taking a bit more than recommended over time – which is difficult to detect and can damage to the liver, brain and kidneys.
Doctors found that people suffering from ongoing pain – such as a toothache – were more likely to tell themselves, “If two pills are good, then three are better.” Liver damage can occur before a single symptom of acetaminophen overdose is detected.
Because these pain medications can be purchased without a prescription, the risks and warnings are not always read or heeded. Patients who experience an overdose of acetaminophen may require a liver transplant and death can result.
2. Use with Caution: NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDs)
Most commonly known as Advil, Aleve, ibuprofen and naproxen –these OTC medications are used for pain relief and to reduce inflammation.
Those with chronic pain, sports injuries and conditions such as arthritis are told to take these dangerous OTC medications to relieve their symptoms.
Dangers of Long-Term NSAIDs Use
- Gastrointestinal disorders – including severe, even fatal, gastric bleeding
- Cardiovascular disease – worsens high blood pressure
- Kidney failure – the damage can be irreversible in the elderly
Consumption of alcohol while taking NSAIDs increases your risk of severe complications such as gastrointestinal bleeding and perforated ulcers.
If you drink alcohol regularly, you must talk to your doctor before taking an anti-inflammatory medication – whether it is OTC or prescribed.
3. Use with Caution: ASPIRIN
Also known as acetylsalicylate, aspirin is most commonly suggested for heart health. You may not realize it is also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory because it is considered a separate product.
However, long-term use of aspirin – even the buffered or coated variety – increases your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.
Scientific research also proved that at least 90% of the diagnosed cases of Reye’s Syndrome were caused by aspirin. Reye’s is a rare but serious condition – most commonly found in children and teenagers – that causes swelling in the brain and liver.
Approximately 10% of those diagnosed with Reye’s syndrome will die despite treatment. Aspirin and products containing aspirin should never be given to young people.
Don’t Underestimate the Dangers of OTC Pain Relievers
Being able to purchase a drug over-the-counter does not mean it is not a potent and potentially lethal pharmaceutical.
Cleveland Clinic Foundation pain management specialist, Philippe Berenger, explained, “Patients [compound] these drugs. They’re taking Tylenol without keeping track of how much.
Then they take a course of a cold medicine with acetaminophen. Then their doctor prescribes a drug with acetaminophen in it. All of a sudden they’re at toxic doses.”
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