‘Analgesics’, the most accessible and frequently encountered drug in daily life

Inevitably, some people need to take analgesics as part of their treatment, but there are a surprising number of people around us who take them regularly. There are people who take them whenever they have a slight headache or menstrual cramps. But how many people are aware of the ingredients and proper dosage?

Q1. What exactly are analgesics?

Analgesics, also known as painkillers, are medication that eliminates or relieves pain. You may think that all analgesics are the same, but this is not the case. Analgesics can be broadly classified as either narcotic or non-narcotic. Narcotic analgesics are only available with a doctor's prescription and are restricted in their use. Non-narcotic analgesics can be further divided into anti-inflammatory analgesics and antipyretic analgesics.

Q2. What is the difference between anti-inflammatory analgesics (NSAIDs) and antipyretic analgesics (acetaminophen)?

Anti-inflammatory literally means ‘removes inflammation’. Therefore, anti-inflammatory analgesics are effective for conditions requiring both pain relief and inflammation relief, such as gingivitis, myositis, and wound pain. Ibuprofen and aceclofenac are examples of anti-inflammatory analgesics.
Antipyretic analgesics are medications that act on the central nervous system and do not suppress inflammation. They are used to treat common ailments such as headaches, toothaches, menstrual cramps, and simple fever. Examples of well-known antipyretic analgesics include Tylenol, Penzal, and Geworin.
In short, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic analgesics have the same analgesic and antipyretic effects, but anti-inflammatory painkillers have anti-inflammatory effects as well.

Q3. What analgesics should I take in the event of acute pain or fever?

Antipyretic analgesics have the benefit of being immediately effective in the case of unbearable pain. In addition, as they have minimal effects on the stomach, they can be taken with or without food. As such, individuals with a weak stomach can take them without discomfort, as can pregnant women and infants/children.

Q4. I feel nauseous after taking painkillers. Why is this?

If you experience any stomach-related issues, it is most likely that you have taken an anti-inflammatory analgesic. Anti-inflammatory analgesics alleviate pain and/or inflammation by decreasing the number of prostaglandins in the body. When prostaglandins decrease, however, the mucous membrane that protects the stomach becomes thinner, and gastric acid secretion increases, which can result in nausea, gastritis, and vomiting. If you frequently experience heartburn or have an upset stomach, we advise you to consult with your doctor or pharmacist.

Q5. I’ve heard that taking analgesics frequently or for a long time can increase tolerance. Is this okay?

Tolerance and addiction to over-the-counter non-narcotic analgesics are rare. If pain relievers are ineffective, you may think you have developed tolerance, but you should also consider the possibility of additional pain or worsening of the original pain occurring. It is extremely dangerous to deviate from the prescribed dosage and arbitrarily increase the dose of analgesics. You must follow your healthcare provider's instructions before increasing the dose.

Q6. I have heard that some analgesics contain caffeine. Is this true?

Some analgesics contain caffeine. Caffeine facilitates to the pain-relieving effect of analgesics, so it is sometimes added to speed up the onset of the effect. If you consume a lot of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, green tea, or cola along with analgesics, you may experience side effects such as hand and eye tremors. Therefore, it is recommended to take analgesics with water.

Q7. Are there any precautions to take when giving analgesics to infants?

If you need to administer an analgesic to an infant, you should use an antipyretic analgesic with the appropriate active ingredient, taking into account the age (number of months) and whether or not the baby is eating. In the case of acetaminophen, the correct amount according to usage and dosage can be administered beginning at 4 months of age. It is okay to use if your baby experiences sudden fever in the middle of the night or a fever after vaccination. In the case of inflammation-related fever, anti-inflammatory analgesics may be administered to infants at least 6 months old.

Q8. What points should I keep in when taking analgesics?

In addition to knowing for what purpose you are taking painkillers, you should also be aware of any other medications you are taking. Medications for certain diseases may contain analgesics, so taking additional analgesics can lead to an overdose. In this case, the risk of adverse effects due to the interaction between the analgesic and the other medication increases, and it is advised to consult a specialist or pharmacist as soon as the medication is prescribed.

Source | Professor Jaewon Kim, Health Column at Eulji University Hospital

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