I’m a drug expert – so taking common painkillers can prove deadly

IT IS something that can be found in almost every household – ibuprofen.

The common painkiller works wonders for back pain, menstrual cramps or a twisted ankle.

Any drug is dangerous if taken in excess - even those we think are harmless


Any drug is dangerous if taken in excess – even those we think are harmlessCredit: Alamy

Most people take a few pills occasionally to treat inflammatory pain.

But those who use them daily or more than intended could be putting themselves in real danger.

Ibuprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that have been repeatedly studied by researchers.

What is the general safe dose?

Phil Day, Superintendent Pharmacist, Pharmacy2U, told The Sun: “The usual adult dose is one or two 200mg tablets or capsules, up to three times a day, preferably with or after food.

“In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a higher dose of up to 600 mg, to be taken up to four times a day if needed.

“For children, the dose is lower. It should be used at the lowest dose and for the shortest time necessary.”

Mr Day said ibuprofen “should only be taken for short periods of time” unless you have a prescription.

He said if you need to take ibuprofen for 10 days, or if your child takes it for 3 days, you should see your GP.

They can assess your risks and possibly offer another drug to offset any complications.

What are the damages?

Mr Day said that taking too much ibuprofen or for too long could potentially cause side effects such as:

  • nausea and vomiting (nausea and vomiting)
  • stomach pain
  • tiredness or drowsiness
  • Black stools or blood in the vomit – a sign of stomach bleeding
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Less common difficulty breathing or an increased risk of some heart problems

dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of, said the risks associated with ibuprofen are “very well documented.”

“For most people, short-term use of the standard dose comes with a low risk of side effects,” she told The Sun.

“We get problems when someone takes a high dose or over a longer period of time [weeks or months]but above all both together.”

Dangerous side effects of overuse include internal stomach bleeding or ulcers.

The risk of bleeding is much higher in older people and in people taking medications that may interact with anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen.

“And when you’re older, you’re more likely to take other medications,” said Dr. Jarvis.

“Ibuprofen can also — especially at high doses over the long term — increase blood pressure and potentially increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

“This risk is theoretically present from day one.”

One study found a 20 percent higher risk of heart failure hospitalization in older people who had taken ibuprofen or another NSAID in the previous two weeks.

It is well known that ibuprofen can increase these risks for people of all ages, although the risks are greater in people with existing heart disease.

dr Jarvis reassured: “The average person who takes ibuprofen occasionally, doesn’t have a high risk of heart disease and doesn’t have an indigestion needn’t worry.

“But do not take large doses or for more than a few days without medical advice, and discontinue use if you experience indigestion.”

She added that there are fewer risks associated with paracetamol than ibuprofen.

However, the NHS recognizes that for some conditions, such as osteoarthritis and back pain, paracetamol does not work very well on its own.

Mr Day said: “Most adults and young people can take ibuprofen and it’s available in liquid form for children.”

However, you should consult your doctor before taking ibuprofen if you have had a stomach ulcer, perforation, or bleeding.

The NHS recommends that you consult your pharmacist or doctor before taking ibuprofen if:

  • You have had more than one perforation or bleeding in the stomach or a stomach ulcer, especially if it was caused by an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug).
  • You have a health problem that means you have an increased risk of bleeding.
  • You have severe heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure.
  • You are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.
  • You have uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, mild to moderate heart failure, or have ever had a stroke.
  • You have kidney or liver problems, asthma, hay fever or allergies, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or diabetes.
  • You have chickenpox or shingles or an infection – taking ibuprofen can increase your risk of certain infections and skin reactions.

When in doubt, always speak to a pharmacist or doctor to find out if ibuprofen is right for you and always read the leaflet inside the medicine pack, Mr Day said.

If you have taken more than the recommended dose of ibuprofen, you should contact a pharmacist or doctor immediately.

If you have trouble breathing or other symptoms that concern you, call 111 as soon as possible for an evaluation or go to the nearest emergency room. I’m a drug expert – so taking common painkillers can prove deadly

Sarah Y. Kim

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