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Ounce of Prevention | Painkillers can kill!

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMDr Tony Vendryes

Pain, particularly acute pain is an important signal that your body gives to warn you to correct a situation of an underlying disorder. Pain is more a symptom than a disease. The best and foremost action you can take is to try to identify the cause of your pain. Then, even if you need to take something for pain relief you can also begin to deal with the underlying cause.

The shelves in your local pharmacy are lined with a bewildering array of drugs for the relief of pain. Many of them are available without a doctor’s
prescription. They include well-known drugs like aspirin and acetaminophen, as well as a large group of pain relievers called NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). More potent analgesics like opiates, morphine and its derivative are now being widely abused worldwide with disastrous consequences

Drawbacks of Painkillers
These medicines are widely used, often abused and, contrary to popular belief, are far from harmless. Let me share with you some facts about some of them.

The chemical name for aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). It was first made in 1853 and has since become a preferred treatment for arthritis pain, headaches and fever. Today, many people reach for this drug at the first hint of pain and many doctors recommend that it be taken on a daily basis for the
prevention of heart attacks, still the commonest cause of death. It could be considered the most popular drug in history.
Aspirin is regarded as being safe enough to not require a prescription. An average daily dose of aspirin for moderate pain is two tablets every four to six hours, but an arthritis sufferer might be allowed by the doctor to take double this amount.
Unfortunately, aspirin has serious list of side effects: gastritis, peptic ulcer, intestinal bleeding, haemorrhagic shock, and even sudden death. Aspirin use can also affect your eyes by increasing the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. There is even up to a 500 per cent increase in the risk of cataracts among individuals below age 55, who take aspirin long-term. Aspirin is also one of the leading causes of death from poisoning each year.


Over a third of the general population takes acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) at least once a month. It is now the most widely used pain relievers in the United States. Taking more than the recommended dose, however, can lead to fatal liver injury. Acetaminophen poisoning is now the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Attempted suicides account for many cases, but almost half are the result of unintentional overdoses. And those who had unintentionally taken overdoses usually have even worse outcomes than those who have done so intentionally, since unintentional overdoses are usually not recognised so soon.  


As chronic pain becomes more common, the drug companies churn out more and more of this class of painkiller. Names like Advil, Brufen, Indomethacin and Voltaren spring readily to mind. With chronic use however these drugs create many problems like gastritis, bleeding peptic ulcers, kidney damage and high blood pressure. Chronic use will increase the destruction of cartilage in arthritic joints, thus making the joint damage worse. Yes with prolonged use they make the arthritis worse. Yet, many people are kept on these medications for decades.

... Natural and Safe Pain Relievers

Fish oils
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish oil have been shown, by many clinical studies, to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that
reduce pain, lower inflammation and promote joint lubrication. The more severe the pain the higher the dose needed.

This root is a strong anti-inflammatory that offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well when steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice. A grounded black pepper seed increases the potency of the ginger tea. It may also be applied externally as a hot compress to painful joints and muscles.
Turmeric a close relative to ginger offers very similar benefits and its anti-inflammatory properties have cancer protective effects.

This herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients known as boswellic acids that research has shown significantly reduce inflammation.

This enzyme, found in pineapples, is natural and anti-inflammatory. It can betaken in supplement form, but eating fresh, pineapple may also be helpful.

Cayenne cream
Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component in nerve cells that transmits pain signals to the brain.

Guinea Hen Weed
This very common local bush has become very popular for its potential anti-cancer benefits. However it is also very useful as a pain reliever. In addition to drinking the tea – best made from the whole plant, the root can be soaked in alcohol and the liquid applied to painful joints and sore areas. Even inhaling the pungent aroma from the root will relieve many a headache.

Essential oils like lavender and rosemary offer powerful stress-relieving and analgesic properties. Simply rub a few drops of the oil in your palms and inhale the fragrance for a few moments and notice the change in your feelings.

Mind/Body therapies
Pain responds well to a variety of therapies like hypnosis, acupuncture, Reiki, Emotional Freedom Therapy (tapping) and therapeutic touch. The wonderful thing is that many of these treatments can be self-administered.
So before taking two pain pills, consider your options. They are often safer and gentler.


- You may email Dr, Vendryes at or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER106FM on Fridays at 8:15 p.m. Visit for details on his books and articles.