By Ed Coghlan
American chronic pain patients who take over-the-counter (OTC) medication are routinely ignoring medicine labels. Physician and consumer surveys released by the American Gastroenterological Association indicate that this practice is putting people at risk of overdose which can lead to serious side effects.
“Pain is incredibly personal, but taking more than the recommended dose of OTC pain medicine can cause significant stomach and intestinal damage among other complications,” said Dr. Byron Cryer, who is councillor-at-large, AGA Institute and association dean of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Some of the serious side effects include stomach bleeding, ulcers, liver damage and even death. AGA commissioned the survey entitled Gut Check-Know Your Medicine which was featured on the National Pain Report in September. 1015 US Adults over 30 and 251 gastroenterologists took the online survey.
Key findings include:
- Many specialists report a majority of their chronic pain patients are using medicines at a higher dose and for a longer duration than recommended and often don’t connect the overdose symptoms to their misuse.
- 43% of chronic pain sufferers said they knowingly have taken more than the recommended dose at some point.
- The same number report that they consider the directions on the labels are just guidelines and that the patients know what works best for them.
- 38% reported not knowing that combining two or more nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) pain reliever or two or more acetaminophen produces increases the risk of serious health complications when taking OTC pain medications.
Another interesting statistic in the survey was the revelation that many self-described chronic pain patients report they aren’t seeing a pain specialist. Only 12 percent reported seeing a specialist while 2/3rds of them report having had chronic pain for two years.
The survey was conducted by Harris online in the first week of October, 2015.
Gastroenterologists report that a vast majority of their patients who either take higher than recommended OTC doses or use the medication longer than recommended are chronic pain and/or arthritis sufferers.
“It’s a growing problem because people living with chronic pain and taking multiple medicines often don’t recognize the side-effects of taking too much,” said Dr. Charles Wilcox, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The AGA educational campaign called “Gut Check-Know You Medicine” can be found here.
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