Over-the-Counter Drug Kills 1000 Each Year, Are You Taking It?

By Lee Bellinger / February 28, 2014

Millions Put Their Health at Risk

What affects more people than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined?

You might be surprised to hear the answer is chronic pain. Annually, 100 million people contend with chronic pain, which is defined as pain that lasts for three months or more.

Chronic pain leads to longer hospital stays, more frequent hospitalization, and more outpatient treatment each year. At the same time, many people who suffer from chronic pain have to cut back on their work hours or leave the workforce entirely in order to manage their pain. That adds to the overall cost of dealing with this common condition.

It’s only natural if you’re living with a chronic pain condition to turn to painkillers. For many, acetaminophen—the painkiller found in Tylenol—remains a favorite choice.

But, while acetaminophen is good for headaches, it’s not very effective against muscle pain or pain related to arthritis.

Ibuprofen, on the other hand, is an anti-inflammatory painkiller. It’s very good on muscle pain and any pain that’s associated with swelling, but it won’t be as good for general body aches and headaches.

1000 Deaths Per Year

No matter what medication you decide to take, it’s important to understand the dosage recommendations. If you take too much pain medicine, it could put a strain on your liver and other organs. An overdose of acetaminophen, for example, could lead to liver failure and could be fatal.

The FDA estimates that nearly 1000 people die every year from acetaminophen overdose.

One of the reasons that acetaminophen overdoses are so common lies in the ingredients of the drug itself. As a gentle painkiller, acetaminophen is often included in other medications. You may be limiting your intake to the recommendations on the label of your Tylenol bottle, and not realize that the same drug is also in your cough medicine.

Inadvertently doubling up your intake through different sources can quickly lead to an overdose and some pretty serious medical complications.

Three Smart Moves for Dealing with Chronic Pain

If you are suffering from chronic pain, the long-term use of any painkiller could put you at higher risk of heart disease, stomach issues, and liver failure.

  1. Say no to the nightcap

If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, those risks increase, even if you’re only a light drinker. In one study of the effects of taking acetaminophen while drinking, researchers found that even the recommended safe dose can increase your risk of kidney disease by 123% when mixed with even a small amount of alcohol.

It’s better not to drink at all when you’re taking painkillers.

  1. Make more glutathione

Acetaminophen is broken down in your liver. Your liver needs glutathione for the process. If your glutathione levels become depleted, your liver can’t break down acetaminophen correctly. Instead, toxic byproducts enter your system and damage your liver.

You can protect your liver from the nasty side effects of long-term painkiller use by making sure your glutathione levels never get depleted. Supplementation with alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can do the trick.

Taking 300 milligrams of ALA three times a day may help protect you from liver and kidney damage that can result from long-term painkiller usage.

  1. Find an alternative
    If you find yourself in need of painkillers on a regular basis, it’s a smart move to look for other, safer options.

Many people have good luck with painkilling alternatives. This can take a little trial and error to help you figure out what works best for you. A few options to try include:

Turmeric: If joint pain is the source of your suffering, taking 1000 milligrams of turmeric every day might put an end to your pain more safely. In studies, people taking turmeric enjoyed an equal amount of pain relief as those taking ibuprofen.

(Warning: Always speak with your doctor before introducing a new supplement or drug into your routine, and don’t take turmeric if you are on blood-thinning medication.)

Manual Therapies: Depending on the source of your pain, some manual manipulation might provide relief. Physical therapy, massage, chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, and osteopathic manual treatment are all options to consider.

Hypnotherapy: If the source of your pain is not well defined—in other words, you’re doctor is having a hard time giving you a diagnosis—hypnotherapy could bring you some relief. In studies, hypnotherapy has proven to be a safe and effective way of relieving pain and cutting back on painkiller use.

It’s always a good idea to discuss treatment changes with a medical professional who knows your specific circumstances. Chronic pain can quickly lead to chronic painkiller use. But when that happens, it sets you up to experience bigger health problems in the future. It’s worthwhile to find safer alternatives, so talk to your doctor about giving these a try.

If you’re one of the millions turning to over-the-counter or prescription pain medication, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the best option for your type of pain.


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