Painkillers of varying degrees are a regular part of our lives, from over-the-counter to prescription strength. Many of them have side effects not commonly noted, however â€“ some beneficial, and some harmful. Here’s a few of the latest studies about pain relievers:
Non-steroidal non-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs for short) include the over-the-counter pain relievers ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs have been shown to be more effective for relieving menstrual pain than acetaminophen (which is marketed as Tylenol).
Women who took NSAIDs during menstrual cycles were nearly 5 times more likely to experience a reduction in cramping pain than those who took acetaminophen. However, people who use NSAIDs, have experienced side effects that are sometimes common with NSAIDs including indigestion, drowsiness, and dizziness â€“ all possible side effects of NSAIDs. To curtail these negative side effects, doctors recommend only taking the drugs during the days when pain normally peaks during your period.
Baby aspirin is sometimes recommended to expecting mothers who are at risk for high blood pressure, kidney or immune system problems. Doctors have carefully studied the effect this low-dose aspirin may have on prenatal children by re-examining those children at age 5 and comparing them to control groups. The risk from the low-dose aspirin is actually very low, with no increased risk for infant mortality or brain injury observed between kids from mothers who did take aspirin and kids from mothers who didn’t.
Furthermore, the study also suggests that prenatal exposure to aspirin was linked to a reduced likelihood of hyperactivity and conduct problems in the 5-year-olds; those kids whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy were nearly 50% less likely to develop behavioral impairments. These results still need to be studied further before any definitive conclusions can be drawn, of course, and other risk factors may be unique to the individual, so always consult a doctor before beginning an aspirin regimen during pregnancy.
Tylenol and other drugs containing acetaminophen have been shown to produce a number of interesting effects. A University of Kentucky study shows that the drug can reduce feelings of social rejection as well as relieve physical pain. It’s also been demonstrated to aid the kidneys in recovering from crushing injuries. It is believed that this is due in part to an effect that acetaminophen has on red blood cells and hemoglobin production, which could also eventually be utilized to combat sickle cell disease and malaria because of the way those illnesses interact with red blood cells.
Opioids are sometimes prescribed for people with chronic pain, but research suggests that this may have an unintended consequence for seniors: older people who regularly take moderate doses of opioids are twice as likely to suffer bone fracture injuries as those who don’t take such drugs. It’s unclear if there is an underlying biological mechanism to this tendency or if it’s merely due to the medications’ side effects of dizziness and decreased motor functioning. For older adults with osteoarthritis, however, the risks may outweigh the relief.
On the bright side about opiates, one recent study of U.S. combat soldiers in Iraq who were wounded on active duty demonstrates a benefit of morphine beyond mere physical pain relief. The soldiers who received a morphine injection within an hour of being wounded were less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This may be due to the effect morphine has on memory consolidation after experiencing a traumatic event.