Painkillers are incredibly accessible, requiring no prescription from a medical professional and providing a reprieve from all sorts of fevers, pains and inflammation. They are so available, that the average person takes 373 painkillers in a single year, and it has been assessed that 1 in 20 people takes as many 6 such pills when ill. Considering how pervasive and easy to acquire they are, they must be safe, right? Not quite.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen (such as Advil) are among the most popular painkillers, due to their potency and ability to treat inflammation. They are also highly preferable to corticosteroids, the other major anti-inflammation measure, which require a prescription and can cause a slew of severe adverse side-effects.
But just because they’re preferable to a bad drug, doesn’t make them good.
A 2017 study conducted by a team of Canadian, Finnish and British medical experts attempted to gauge the impact NSAIDs may have on an increased risk of heart attack. Their findings were alarming, to say the least.
By cross-referencing previous studies encompassing a group of 446,763 individuals, they found that taking NSAIDs over a period of one day to a week was associated with a dramatic risk increase of heart attack, with ibuprofen causing a 48% hike in risk of myocardial infarction. Rofecoxib, another NSAID that had an even more drastic impact at 58%, had been recalled in 2004, though it is now being considered to return to the market as a specialized treatment for hemophiliacs.
Higher dosages of NSAIDs was associated with an even greater risk, though the period of intake did not seem to effect the odds.