Painkillers - Good vs. Bad

Posted Friday, June 03, 2016 by Ed Harper


The invention of synthetic and natural pain medications within the past century has done wonders for those who suffer from chronic pain, victims of painful accidents, and those suffering from long term illness. Even so, many drugs used to treat pain come with adverse side effects such as kidney failure, heart disease, or addiction. Over-the-counter pain medications are largely unregulated and thus can be abused or mistreated in an attempt to relieve pain. This is the case for a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). NSAIDS do an incredible job of relieving pain, especially when the pain is from inflammation such as headaches, arthritis, tendonitis, and many others. Drugs included in this category include Ibuprofen (often marketed as Advil), and Naproxen (also known as Aleve), and aspirin. These drugs are powerful and come with harsh side effects with long-term use. NSAIDS work by targeting nerve cells in tissues to constrict blood vessels in order to reduce swelling and therefore relieve pain. While helpful in the short term, this can lead to heart disease, hypertension, and many other harmful side effects.

Check with your doctor if you take NSAIDS long term. If possible, get a prescription for long-term pain relief. If a prescription is not possible, studies have shown that Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been correlated with less severe long term damage.

One example of the dangers of NSAID use is in the case of Kenny Easley. Easley was a star defensive back for the UCLA Bruins and then the Seattle Seahawks in the 80’s. For many months in 89, Easley took between 15-20 tablets of ibuprofen daily. This resulted in him having severe kidney failure. It effectively ended his football career. It was only discovered that he had anything wrong with his kidneys when he was traded to another team and was required to receive a physical examination. It caused him to bring a suit against the Seahawks’ team doctors and the case was eventually settled out of court.

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