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If you take one of these common pain medications, you should read this now

Published May 20th, 2021 3:32PM EDT
painkiller study
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Your back hurts, you have a headache, or you stubbed your pinky toe on the coffee table and it just won’t stop throbbing. What do you do? Reaching for a common painkiller might be your first instinct, but new research from multiple groups suggests that if you care about your long-term health, you may want to rethink things a bit.

As Knowridge reports, a trio of studies has now linked common painkillers — both over-the-counter and prescription varieties — to long-term increases in the risk of heart attacks, stroke, kidney issues, sleep disorders, obesity, and general inflammation of the heart and kidneys. The report is a collection of damning studies that should be taken seriously, especially if you find yourself reaching for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on a regular basis and care about your overall health.

The studies focused on both over-the-counter versions of NSAIDs and prescription-strength painkillers of the same class. All of the drugs are meant to decrease inflammation and reduce pain, but while they may help in the short-term, they are clearly having long-term effects in at least a significant portion of those who take them.

In one study from the University of Alabama, the NSAID carprofen was linked to inflammation in organs including the heart and kidneys. The study was conducted on animals, but it’s highly likely that the same would be true of humans, as painkillers like this don’t tend to have dramatically different effects on non-human animals vs humans.

A second study drew a clear link between the NSAID diclofenac and higher risks of heart attack and stroke over a period as short as one month when compared to over-the-counter NSAIDs including ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). The risk was also higher than in those taking paracetamol (acetaminophen or Tylenol).

Meanwhile, a third separate study linked more powerful painkillers like gabapentin and opiates to a dramatic increase in the risk of obesity. These drugs were also associated with an increase in sleeping problems and sleep disturbances, which can magnify existing mood disorders or other psychiatric conditions.

Put simply, just because these drugs are available either over the counter or are easy to get via a prescription doesn’t mean they’re to be taken with reckless abandon. Any time you’re putting medication into your body you are altering things in a way that simply wasn’t possible for the overwhelming majority of human existence. There is still a significant risk when taking any drug, no matter how benign it might seem.

There are many people on the planet dealing with chronic pain and other conditions that make these medications absolutely necessary. There’s no argument about that. However, if you find yourself taking these medications for pain that can be described more as “annoying” than “life-changing,” it might be a good idea to search for relief in other forms.