Most over-the-counter pain relievers can be fatal

Most over-the-counter pain relievers can be fatal

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Recklessly taking over-the-counter pain relievers poses significant risks
Over-the-counter pain relievers can be found in most home pharmacies today. They are often used relatively carelessly for various forms of pain such as headache, backache, period pain or toothache. However, long-term use can have significant side effects, which is why caution is imperative.

Over-the-counter pain relievers should be taken for a maximum of three consecutive days and no more than ten times a month, medical doctors warn. Because there are serious side effects such as inflammation of the stomach, kidney damage or even an increased risk of heart attack. Prolonged pain therefore urgently needs medical treatment and should not be treated by self-medication with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Increasing sales of pain relievers
Pain relievers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, acetylsalicylic acid (ASS) or diclofenac can be found in almost every household today. Sales also increased slightly last year, reports the dpa news agency, citing market research company IMS Health. According to this, almost 162 million packs of analgesics (medical term for pain relievers) were sold in pharmacies in 2015, which is about 2.4 percent more than in the previous year. A large part of the painkiller packs sold were purchased without a prescription, according to the "dpa" report.

Pain is an important warning sign
Although the analgesics can help with acute pain in the short term, they only serve to alleviate the symptoms, the cause of the symptoms usually remains unaffected. This can be of a wide variety of types and, in the worst case, go back to a serious illness. The pain is perceived via so-called nociceptors on the skin and in the organs. These receptors react to certain chemical substances, high pressure, but also to heat and cold, reports the "dpa". An impulse is sent to the nearest nerve cell, which is passed on to the spinal cord and finally to the brain via the nerve fibers, whereby the pain is consciously perceived.

Acute and chronic pain
The causes of pain can be of very different types, with a fundamental distinction being made between acute and chronic pain. "Chronic is pain that occurs regularly for at least three months and affects the affected patients physically, psycho-cognitively and socially", Julia Richter from the Federal Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (BPI) quotes from "dpa". The pain can take on an independent complaint or be due to serious illnesses.

Pain reliever for acute pain
Acute pain includes, for example, migraines or toothache. Over-the-counter pain relievers - used temporarily and in moderation - can often help here. "There is nothing to be said if an otherwise healthy patient swallows a pain pill on his own in the event of short-term pain," said Peter Walger, chief physician for intensive care medicine and infectious diseases at the Evangelical Clinics in Bonn, in the "dpa" message:

Maximum three days of use
However, the painkillers should never be taken "in self-medication for more than three days in a row", Julia Richter warns the news agency. In the case of chronic pain, it is essential to seek medical help to determine the cause of the complaint. According to the expert, holistic diagnosis is important, which includes physical and psychological and social factors.

Inflammation of the stomach and stomach bleeding
In the case of side effects, it should be noted that certain pain relievers can immediately cause gastritis, and the risk of bleeding from the stomach increases drastically if taken uncontrollably. In the worst case, these can take on life-threatening proportions. As a sign of gastric bleeding, the experts cited, for example, blood in the stool or vomiting of blood in the “dpa” communication. In addition, gastric bleeding is a possible cause of iron deficiency and chronic anemia.

Other side effects of the pain reliever
As a side effect of the uncontrolled use of painkillers, however, the risk of kidney damage should also be mentioned. Furthermore, "in the case of previous illnesses, the risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack increases," Walger told the "dpa": Also, when taking other medications, one should be aware of possible interactions. For example, if you are taking antihypertensive medication at the same time, you should consult a doctor and in such cases the blood pressure medication may need to be adjusted. Last but not least, according to the experts, it should be considered that the preparations do not necessarily have the desired effect. Because, for example, anti-inflammatories such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or ASA do not work for tension headaches or back pain.

So far, many risks have been insufficiently researched
The overall risk of pain relievers should not be underestimated, especially since recent studies have shown that there is a connection between the use of paracetamol in pregnancy with ADHD and autism in children. In addition, our sympathy is apparently weakened by taking paracetamol. The effects are therefore extremely complex and have not yet been fully clarified. The relatively unskilled use of over-the-counter pain relievers is therefore extremely critical. (fp)

Author and source information

Video: The Two Main Types of Over-the-Counter Pain Medications (May 2022).


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