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Over-the-Counter Pain Relief Dangers

The research is conclusive. Over-the-counter pain relievers can hurt you.  And they’re equally harmful to everyone, whether they have a high or low pain tolerance, the risksIn fact, experts say that everyone—including those with lower back pain or chronic pain conditions like arthritis, neuropathy, fibromyalgia or carpal tunnel—should consider alternatives to popular “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” (NSAIDs) like Beyer aspirin, Advil and Tylenol.  

  • Over 16,500 Americans die every year from NSAID overuse.
  • An additional 103,000 are hospitalized for complications from products they probably bought at the grocery store.

Major risks with NSAIDs

The FDA now requires manufacturers to place warning labels on all their over-the-counter drug products, alerting consumers to potential risks. In addition, the Drug Facts box printed on every box of these medications must clearly state that users expose themselves to serious health dangers if:

  • they take more than the maximum number of daily doses;  
  • they combine more than one NSAID; and/or  
  • they consume three or more alcoholic drinks per day while using the product.

Here are example of the medical problems that can result from over-use of NSAIDs:

Stomach and intestinal ulcers can develop because these drugs thin the lining of all digestive organs. This makes it relatively easy for the medicine to burn a blister-like sore right through that lining. Left untreated too long, these ulcers can become extremely painful and start to bleed.

Blood changes are not uncommon with aspirin. That’s because aspirin breaks down inside the body and becomes ascetic acid—which damages red blood cells. In addition, aspirin thins the blood. That’s why it’s particularly bad for anyone already taking a prescription blood thinner (such as Coumadin).

High blood pressure may be caused by NSAIDs. In one study researchers looked at men who regularly used over-the-counter pain relievers and found that they were 38% more likely to develop high blood pressure than those using no painkillers at all. In addition, NSAIDs can interfere with prescription drugs intended to control anti-hypertension.

Liver damage is linked to acetaminophen (Tylenol). In fact, this NSAID causes three times as many cases of liver failure as all other drugs combined and is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the U.S. As it’s metabolized, acetaminophen  releases small amounts of a toxic substance (called N-acetyl-benzoquinoneimine).

Learn to protect yourself  

The National Consumers League (NCL) finds that most Americans are grossly under-informed about the dangers of over-the-counter pain relievers. Don’t be one of them. The price may be serious toxicity, in you or someone you love. It’s not that hard to stay safe. Just use common sense and stick to these cautionary tips:

  • Read before you swallow. One consumer survey recently found that one in three poll participants never bother to read the label instructions on over-the-counter drugs. That’s a dangerous mistake.  The only safe way to take any NSAID is to do so exactly as directed by your doctor, or as directed by the manufacturer. Don’t assume the bottle label tells you enough. Always refer to the detailed information sheet folded inside the box.
  • Never self-prescribe. For those suffering with severe conditions (like arthritis pain or lower back pain) the recommended dose often fails to provide adequate relief. The need to stop pain fast motivates a lot of those people to take more than they should, more often than they should. Never use a higher than recommended dosage. And never take the medication more often than recommended.
  • Never combine NSAIDs with alcohol. Alcohol alone can cause stomach and intestinal irritation. So does aspirin. Put them to together and you double your risk of developing ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. Research has also suggested that heavy drinkers who use acetaminophen are at increased risk for severe liver damage. 
  • Look for natural pain relief alternatives.  A popular choice is all-herbal Premiere’s Pain Spray. This remarkable pain-away temporarily relieves every kind of common ache or pain. The more you spray, the stronger the relief. A favorite nationwide for over 20 years, Pain Spray offers instant relief that lasts 4-5 hours.
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Man with lower back pain and Premiere's Pain Spray bottle.