The potential dangers of OTC medications.

If you’re a human being living in the United States, then there is about a 99.99999% chance that you’ve taken an over the counter(OTC) medication like Advil, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, Aspirin, etc. In fact, there is the same probability that there is a bottle of one of those brands sitting in your medicine cabinet right now. Regardless of how “natural” you feel you are, almost all of us have at one time or another taken one of these for a headache, fever……maybe even a hangover? The problem lies in the fact that because these medications are so readily available, without any prescription necessary to purchase, we all assume that they are completely safe. But is that necessarily the case?
Most of the aforementioned medication brands fall into a category known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs for short. Acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol, is generally used for the same purpose as NSAIDs but does not fall into their category based on its mechanism of action. Both types have potentially dangerous side effects associated with their use that most people are not familiar with. For example, in 1999 the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine released the following statement:
“It has been estimated conservatively that 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur among patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis every year in the United States. This figure is similar to the number of deaths from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome(AIDs) and considerably greater than the number of deaths from multiple myeloma, asthma, cervical cancer, or Hodgkin’s disease. If deaths from gastrointestinal toxic effects from NSAIDs were tabulated separately in the National Vital Statistics reports, these effects would constitute the 15th most common cause of death in the United States. Yet these toxic effects remain mainly a “silent epidemic,” with many physicians and most patients unaware of the magnitude of the problem.”
Think for a minute as to how crazy that statement is. The deaths associated with NSAID use are comparable to AIDS and CONSIDERABLY GREATER than the deaths associated with a serious condition like cervical cancer. And yet how many of us are aware of these statistics? Even acetaminophen is not free of adverse side effects. In 2011, it was estimated that there were 78,414 acetaminophen overdose related emergency department visits, and 33,520 related hospitalizations.
Remember that old saying about how if something doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger? Unfortunately that’s not the case here. Recent studies have come out to show a potential link between heavy NSAID use and the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. A 2010 study in Neurology found that increased neuritic plaque(degenerative deposits in the gray matter of your brain) was found in patients who used NSAIDs heavily, and that may explain a possible association between heavy NSAID use and the development of dementia. Further, another study in Neurology in 2009 had an original hypothesis that NSAID use would actually protect against development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. They reported though that their results were contrary to that original hypothesis, and they found that heavy NSAID users actually showed a greater incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
So what does this mean for you, that the occasional Advil when you have a headache is going to kill you or ruin your life? Not necessarily, but it is important to remember that all medications have side effects, whether you take one or one hundred. The reason I’m writing this is because there are people who rely on OTC analgesic medications to manage their pain on a daily basis, and they will take more than the maximum recommended dose every single day just to do their work, or play with their kids. These people are at a much higher risk for complications and they need to know that there is an alternative. If you or someone you know is using OTC medications for chronic pain symptoms, then please call us! We can set up a free examination and tell you if we will be able to help manage and potentially get rid of your pain in a natural, drug-free way.

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