Take the Test: Do you Know Your Medicine?

Take the Test: Do you Know Your Medicine?

As spring allergy season kicks in and many people find themselves going to great lengths to relieve their symptoms, it’s a most useful time to focus your attention on the safe use of over-the-counter pain medicines. When we are irritated and overcome with itchy eyes, scratchy throat and relentless sneezing, it’s easy to reflexively reach for our stand-by allergy medicine.

But, patients often don’t recognize the side-effects of taking too much, which is why education is so critical when it comes to pain management. Complications from overdose or overuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are serious and harmful — from stomach bleeding to ulcers to liver damage, and, in rare cases, even death.

Gut check 2

Gut Check Journey

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has launched an online challenge for consumers to find answers to their OTC pain medicine questions through a series of quizzes and mini-challenges, as they journey through a virtual hike in the woods. Users must navigate their way through the Gut Check Journey to prove they know how to safely use the medicines inside their medicine cabinet and avoid potential gastrointestinal and other health problems.

In January, AGA reported that many Americans who turn to OTC medicines for treatment of chronic pain are routinely ignoring medicine labels, and that 43 percent of chronic pain sufferers said they knowingly have taken more than the recommended dose.

Pain can be debilitating and keep patients from being able to do what they want and need to do every day. Through this online challenge, which shares simple steps for safer, smarter use of pain medicines, we set out to help pain sufferers control their pain for a more comfortable, enjoyable life. Take the Gut Check Journey!

Byron L. Cryer, MD, councillor-at-large, AGA Institute, and associate dean, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

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Authored by: Dr. Byron Cryer

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The doctor makes an important point. OTC pain medications are more deadly than opioids and also have long term treatment consequences.

Over 40,000 people with painful arthritic joints die each year from the consequences of OTC NSAID misuse. OTC NSAID include naproxen and ibuprofen.

Acetaminophen (paracetamol) poisons the liver in doses over 4,000 milligrams per day, yet it is a component of over 350 OTC medications for cold and flu, sleep, and sold on its own under brand names like Tylenol.

Just because you can buy a medicine w/o a doctor’s Rx does not mean it is safe and effective at any dose.

Ask your pharmacist about the safety of OTC medications.

Over-used medications can cause serious problems for chronic pain patients. So too can drug interactions. It is wise to ask your pharmacist about interactions between prescription and non-prescription drugs, if you feel you must use some medication that your doctor doesn’t know you are taking. There is also a good online drug interactions checker at http://www.drugs.com.