Continued from previous page.

"Think before you pop that pill,"

advises Pharmacist Trecia Lee when self-medicating for pain relief. Ms Lee is from the Pharmacy department at Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth group. She goes on to share precautionary advice when taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication.

Why do people self-medicate?

The older generation tends to be more reluctant to see a doctor as they may think it is a waste of money since the pain comes and goes frequently. As for the general population, it can be because of busy work schedules or financial concerns.

Common misconception about over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication

"Most people think that every painkiller is paracetamol (widely available under the brand Panadol), and they would not think twice about taking it to treat any kind of pain in their body," shares Ms Lee.

The truth is, paracetamol is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution or quick fix to pain relief. And although paracetamol is non-addictive, taking it excessively will not help with more severe pain.

When is okay to self-medicate for pain?

For mild to moderate pain: You can take paracetamol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

For moderate to intense pain: This often requires prescription painkillers (opioids), so, a visit to the doctor is necessary.

Do not self-medicate if you are experiencing nerve-related pain. See a doctor who will prescribe the right pain relief medication.

Before buying over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication, bear this in mind...

  1. Consider your age and the type of pain you are experiencing:

    • Is it caused by physical injury?

    • Is it inflammatory or nerve-related?

    • The location of the pain matters too, as it will help you decide on the form of treatment (oral, topic, spray or patch)

  2. Follow the dosage instructions provided

  3. Take note if you have any allergies, underlying diseases and risk factors such as heart disease and stomach irritation.

  4. Be aware of the side effects, and more importantly, ensure that there is no duplication of painkillers. Combining medication can increase your risk of an overdose.

  5. If unsure, always seek professional advice or ask the store pharmacist.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medication abuse: How it occurs

Some people may abuse the side effects of certain medications. For example, to treat insomnia, people may start relying on OTC medications that cause drowsiness as a way to help them sleep.

The more they take the medication, the more their bodies become dependent on it — leading to a cycle of dependence and addiction, which can cause liver and kidney damage in the long term.

See page 1 to learn how to manage chronic pain and when seek medical help.

This article was adapted from Skoop magazine (issue 8).

Ref: K21

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