Popping painkillers

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: January 21st, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When your doctor asks you to list the medications you’re currently taking, you may not even think to list the over-the-counter painkiller you pop to ward off a headache or combat an old sports injury. But this omission may be putting your health at risk.

A new study by doctors at the Eastern Virginia Medical School found than nearly one in five patients under-reported the amount of medicine they take. Since more than thirty-million Americans take painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen every day, there’s a significant chance a problem could arise, the study found.

While the over-the-counter medications pose no difficulties for many patients, they can cause serious problems for those with gastrointestinal problems. With prolonged use, the medicines can even cause bleeding or liver problems.

The reasons patients didn’t tell their doctors about the painkillers varied. Fourteen percent said they were never asked. Another twenty-two percent said they didn’t think the medications were important enough to list. About one-third said they didn’t say anything because the painkillers weren’t prescribed by their doctors.

Over-the-counter painkillers can be just as harmful as prescription medication if abused. The use of the drugs leads to more than one-hundred-thousand hospitalizations and sixteen-thousand-five-hundred deaths each year in the United States. That’s more deaths than from AIDS and more than four times as many deaths as those from cervical cancer.

So, what’s the solution? Both doctors and patients need to proactively discuss all medications, including over-the-counter, herbal and home remedies.