Heath Ledger, Elvis Presley and now Michael Jackson. All of them popped pills so often that they got addicted to them. These pills were apparently harmless; often were described as a “necessity” to get through a gruelling day. But they did a bit more than relieve these celebrities of their stress. They also relieved them of their physical and mental health.
It's a pain
“Painkillers, sedatives, anti-allergics and cough syrups are greatly abused,” says Dr Kushrav Bajan, intensive care specialist, P D Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai. “Persistent use of such seemingly regular drugs lower the threshold of tolerance levels to any sort of discomfort.” Agrees Dr Meenakshi Jain, consultant, internal medicine, Max Healthcare, Noida, “Often, painkillers like brufen, combiflam, aspirin and so on become almost a habit for a lot of people.”
Painkillers can be divided into two categories, narcotic and non narcotic. Both can be harmful if misused. “Regular painkillers like dispirin, aspirin, combiflam etc are non narcotic drugs and available over the counter,” says Dr Jain. “Regular use can cause stomach infections, ulcers, acidity, gas, thinning of the blood, high blood pressure and kidney and liver toxicity.”
Narcotic drugs like morphine, codeine and so on are only prescribed to relieve very serious pains, such as post operative or cancer pains, chronic back pain or sometimes nerve troubles. “These are definitely not to be taken beyond the prescribed period,” says Jain.
What a life
Even prescription drugs like anti depressants, anti allergics like Allegra or Cetirizine and sleeping pills can get you hooked. Architect Kirti Sharma realised this when he became too dependent on his sleeping pills. “Even on my best days, I didn’t get a good night’s sleep without my medicine,” he says.
Lifestyle medicines like multi vitamins and steroids are also harmful. “People try and kill the pain instead of curing it,” says Dr Jain. “OTC medicines are okay once in a while, but if pain is persistent, take proper advice.” Adds Dr Bajan. “If a person has been prescribed a pill for two weeks, it is important that they let the doctor decide if it’s to be continued or not.”
Most of us pay no attention to prescriptions. HR professional and arthritis patient Arti Sundaram was prescribed a painkiller for five weeks, but continued it for much longer. “It was a mistake,” she says. “Because the painkillers worked, I discontinued my arthritis medication. So things got worse.”
Many of us pop pills for what we think are minor problems. Says Dr Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist, P D Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, “A patient must understand that it is necessary to cure a problem, not just troubleshoot it with a painkiller or anti-depressant.”