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What are the risks associated with over-the-counter painkillers?

High doses of the common OTC painkiller and anti-inflammatories can cause liver, kidney and stomach problems. In this video, Devi Nampiaparampil, MD, chief of pain management at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, explains these side effects.


Many painkillers are available over the counter (OTC) while others require a prescription, but all pain medications carry a risk of side effects. Some examples of OTC pain medicines include aspirin (Bayer), acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). It’s important to balance the benefits with the risks of side effects, such as kidney damage, fluid retention, increased blood pressure, and digestive issues. Always read the label to see what type of medication you’re taking.

High doses and long-term use of painkillers may harm the kidneys, even healthy ones. Pain medications should be taken exactly as prescribed, or as directed on the label, at the lowest effective dose, for the shortest period of time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.