In the Name of Relief

In 1996, Americans swallowed 2.6 billion dollars worth of over-the-counter pain relievers in about 200 different brands. Consumers can get pretty confused deciding how much to take of what and when, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Every drugstore has a wall of pain relievers. There is some organization to them. Every brand fits into one of three categories: aspirin, acetominophen– like Tylenol, and non-steroidals — like Advil, Orudis and Aleve. They conquer some pain equally.

Jim, pharmacist, “To be perfectly honest about it, all three are probably equal in effectiveness for a headache.”

There are some differences…

“Tylenol as a group will not provide the same pain relief in an inflammatory type of disease that non-steroidals and aspirin would.”

…And some cautions. Aspirin can irritate your stomach.

“If you have any predisposition towards having an ulcer, you certainly wouldn’t take aspirin with ulcer medications.”

Pharmacists also warn just because you don’t need a prescription, these pills aren’t harmless.

“For the most part, all of these agents can become toxic if you take too much of them.”

But the amount you take can depend on your size.

“Most of these normal doses are based on what they consider a 70 kilogram patient, which is roughly 140 to 150 pounds. I’m substantially larger than a 150 pound person. Will this dosage work for me? Yeah. Can I take a little bit more than somebody who is 120 pounds? Sure.”

As for how long it takes to get relief, all pills take about 30 minutes… powders, 20 minutes.

Aspirin is the least expensive of all pain relievers, and there’s another bonus: studies have shown it may play a part in preventing heart attacks, cancer, miscarriages and Alzheimer’s disease.

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