How many times has someone told you a “party” drug could lead to more serious problems – like addiction, brain damage, or even death? You’ve probably heard it so many times, it’s getting hard to believe. But all drugs have real potential for harm – even prescription pain relievers. When abused alone, or taken with other drugs, prescription pain medications can kill you faster than aids, malaria or even Lassa fever. And the death toll from misuse and abuse is rising steadily, It takes seconds and minutes to cause a heart attack which can send the abuser to the land of no return in matters of minutes and hours if not treated immediately and properly.
Recent studies has shown that routine use of common painkillers, including ibuprofen, has again been linked with a higher chance of having a heart attack. Led by Michèle Bally of the University of Montreal, Canada, the research team set out to characterise the real-life risks of heart attack associated with the use of oral NSAIDs. The researchers examined NSAIDs used to treat pain and inflammation and found that the increased risk of heart attack was small but started soon after taking the painkillers. The NSAIDs of particular interest to the researchers were celecoxib (a COX 2 inhibitor) and the three main traditional NSAIDs – diclofenac, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Because painkillers work well with little effort, they are frequently the first choice for pain management. Rather than exploring alternative pain management techniques, which take effort and may not eliminate pain to the same extent as the painkillers, patients reach for the pill bottle. The ease of use and their effectiveness may lead some to reach for the drugs more often than is safe or necessary.
The study found that the NSAIDs could be raising the risk of having a heart attack as early as the first week of use and especially within the first month of taking high doses of the drugs. “Patients and doctors must weigh up the risks and benefits of taking high doses of these common painkillers, particularly if you have survived a heart attack or you are at a higher risk,” said Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. “We already know that these drugs increase your risk of having a heart attack. However, this large-scale study worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDS. “Whether you are being prescribed painkillers like ibuprofen, or buying them over the counter, people must be made aware of the risk and alternative medication should be considered where appropriate.”
Most people know that painkillers can be addictive, but they don’t know that taking opioids over a long period of time may in fact increase a patient’s sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia). This happens because long-term use of opiate painkillers causes a decrease in your ability to tolerate pain and an increase in sensitivity to pain. In fact, people taking opioids long term may keep having pain, or may see their pain increase, long after the original cause of pain has healed.