Doctors in Dubai / Gastroenterology / The Side Effects of Pain Killers Drugs – Part 1

The Side Effects of Pain Killers Drugs – Part 1


Attacking more than pain – Part 1

Most drugs are consumed for a common purpose – the hope that they will offer some degree of pain relief. Whether out of desperation or habit, people regularly turn to pain medications to relief the agonizing pain caused by arthritis, migraine headache, back injuries, surgeries and other ailments. To consumers’ satisfaction, pain killers often live up to their promises and dull what seems to be unbearable pain. In turn, however, they can also bring a variety of dangerous and frequently overlooked consequences.

None is without harmful side effects, whether in the form of over the counter (OTC) drugs, such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-flammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or prescription drugs such as narcotics and steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Unknown to many consumers, pain medications may be attacking more than pain, thereby inhibiting the body’s natural defenses against illness.


Aspirin is a prime example of an OTC drug that provides a mixture of positive and negative results. Around for years, aspirin has become the common solution to many health dilemmas. Because of its popularity, studies show that many people no longer view aspirin as a drug, consuming it just as they would a daily vitamin. Basil Hirschowitz, M.D., a University of Alabama at Birmingham gastroenterologist noted this observation: “In 30 cases of patients with surgery for intractable ulcers, blood tests showed they had been taking aspirin. But half the patients denied using aspirin. Many people may not realize aspirin is in the medicine they are taking or they are in denial of the potential dangers of taking the drugs” (Aspirin).

Indeed, aspirin is a drug with the potential to cause lasting damage. Aspirin is a locally irritating, corrosive substance, which when used for a long time or in high doses can increase the likelihood of developing peptic ulcers in the lower part of the esophagus, the stomach or the beginning of the small intestine. Aspirin also causes bleeding in the stomach and over time, can weaken the body’s ability to slow and contain bleeding throughout the body. Taking aspirin for as little as three days can increase the amount of bleeding during childbirth, tooth extraction and surgery. Many physicians recommend that people with serious liver disease, kidney malfunction, vitamin K deficiency and blood clotting disorders refrain from taking aspirin. Furthermore, many people are allergic to aspirin, experiencing a wide variety of reactions from hives and rashes to swollen lymph nodes, severe breathing difficulties and drop in blood pressure. Rarely a person will have an anaphylactic reaction (collapse in shock) on taking it (Withers).

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Over time, the world’s search for an ideal pain killer has expanded to include a wide variety of anti-inflammatory drugs in addition to aspirin. These anti-inflammatory drugs can be divided into two categories – nonsteroidal and steroidal drug. The more frequently used of the two categories, NSAIDs, work by inhibiting the formation of chemicals in the body that cause pain, fever and inflammation. This drug group includes pain killers such as acetaminophen and ibuprophen. NSAIDs have proven beneficial, but nevertheless, they are all associated with significant side effects.

NSAIDs inhibit the formation of thromboxane A2 and prostaglandin endoperoxides which are necessary for platelet aggregation. With most NSAIDs, this increased bleeding period lasts only until the drug has been eliminated (1-2 days); however, aspirin produces prolonged effects of 7-10 days. Regarding wound healing, there is some evidence for impairment of healing of intestinal anastomoses. Although acetaminophen is not as likely to cause stomach damage as aspirin, it is characterized by its own harmful effects. Larges doses of acetaminophen may cause severe liver damage and death.

The functions of many NSAIDs are widely misunderstood. For example, while numbing pain, acetaminophen does not help stiffness or inflammation. However, many consumers admit to consuming acetaminophen for this purpose. Another primary group, the elderly, consume pain medicines without realizing that they now have reduced renal clearance of NSAIDs and require appropriately reduced doses.

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