The uses and risks of pain medications

The uses and risks of pain medications

In this DocTalk video, Damian G. Lara, MD, Family Medicine at ARC Bastrop talks about over the counter (OTC) pain medications, explaining the different uses for ibuprofen and acetaminophen, along with their risks. Dr. Lara says, "When it comes to ibuprofen and Tylenol, they are extremely safe when you take them at the doses listed on the bottle."

Dr. Lara also addresses prescription pain medications and gives some great advice on how to avoid the risk associated with them.

Watch the video now, or read the transcript below:

Over-the-counter pain medications -- there are two main ones that everybody knows about: ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ibuprofen is usually better when it comes to inflammation, swelling, or joint pain, but I usually say that acetaminophen or Tylenol is going to be better when it comes to a normal headache. They can be taken together and give you a great amount of pain control all at once for some really severe pain. Research actually shows that high-dose ibuprofen and Tylenol together are just as good as low-dose narcotic pain medications. When it comes to controlling a fever, it is good to alternate them, especially for kids, taking one every four hours.

Safety concerns

When it comes to ibuprofen and Tylenol, very extremely safe when you take them at the doses listed on the bottle. There are risks especially with ibuprofen particularly when it comes to:

  • gastric bleeding
  • abnormal kidney function
  • electrolyte disorders

Usually, these risks are if you've been taking the medication for a very long time. When it comes to acetaminophen the risks are:

  • liver damage

Usually this is when you overdose on the medication, so for the most part not a whole lot of risk with acetaminophen.

When it comes to narcotic pain medications, usually we want to use those as a last resort medication and use over-the-counter pain medications first. When someone's prescribed a pain medication, they can avoid any risk really by using step up therapy. So, they start with Tylenol and ibuprofen first and then only if the pain is too much, they take the narcotic pain medication. The other things they can use are:

  • topical medications
  • heat or ice
  • warm bath

All these modalities definitely help and are all things that you can do on your own.

Prescription pain medications

The biggest risk about prescription pain medications is of course addiction. We see a lot of that in society today. Unfortunately, a lot of people have been inappropriately prescribed a prescription pain medication. Recent research actually says that even three days of a narcotic pain medication can lead to a dependence, tolerance, and then addiction. I have worked in addiction treatment facilities in the past as well and so I've definitely seen what can go wrong and I want to try and prevent that.

Make an appointment today

Dr. Lara is currently accepting new patients. To make an appointment, call ARC Bastrop at 512-308-4311, or schedule an appointment online.

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