Many People Ignorant of the Potential Side-Effects of Painkillers

A new study supported by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has found that many people misuse prescription and over-the-counter painkillers (OTC), also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and are ignorant to the potential side effects of the drugs. The study can be found in this month’s issue of the Journal of Rheumatology.

The nationwide survey of adult households in the United States sought to determine perceptions and knowledge of NSAIDs. Researchers defined NSAID users as those people who used prescription or OTC painkillers at least twice in the year prior to the survey for at least five consecutive days at a time.

Of the 807 people studied, 545 were unaware of the potential side effects of the drugs, while 18% had previously experienced side-effects.

The most commonly experienced side effects were stomach pain, internal bleeding and ulcers. Nearly 30% of these people did not believe that they were at risk for any side effects associated with the drugs.

Over 36 million people take OTC and prescription NSAIDs for pain relief, headaches, and arthritis everyday. Nearly 25% of people exceed the recommended dosage.

There is an increased risk of gastrointestinal complications, from stomach pain to ulcers, hemorrhage, and severe gastrointestinal problems associated with long-term use of NSAIDs in high doses, despite their many benefits.

Experts say that each year, these side-effects cause nearly 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths.

In 2003, the AGA launched the R.E.D.U.C.E. (Risk Education to Decrease Ulcer Complications and Their Effects from NSAIDs) Campaign to educate the public about the potentially harmful effects of NSAIDs.

For more information about the risks of NSAIDs, visit

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